Heart of Bison Gold: Michaels back on Dome microphone
FARGO — Veteran North Dakota State football fans can count on two fingers the number of public address announcers that they have heard over the years at home games. The voices become so familiar that it’s like part of their fabric of the game.
One was missing for the last five weeks. On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Dan Michaels was walking through the Fargodome lobby when one fan recognized him.
“We’ve missed your voice,” said season ticket holder Kim Hook from Fargo. “I hope you’re feeling better.”
The Voice of the Bison is indeed feeling better, and will return to the booth on Saturday when NDSU hosts Youngstown State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. His routine won’t change. He’ll wake up in the morning like a player ready to tackle an opponent.
He’s happy there are no night games at home because waiting around all day before the doors open 90 minutes before kickoff gets long.
“I do get cranked up,” Michaels said. “I can’t imagine what the players feel like, 2:30 is late enough of a start. I consider it a great honor to be in that booth and do what I do.”
He’s just glad to be in that booth after heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., addressed a bicuspid aortic valve issue, a condition he was born with but not discovered until 2017.
He had surgery for it last year, but the valve eventually did not take. He wasn’t due for a follow-up echocardiogram until this month. Three close friends passing away from probable heart issues changed his mind.
Friend Keith McDougall died from a heart attack in the fall of 2016. Danny Johnson, a roommate in college at Valley City State, died last February. Over the summer, legendary sportscaster and talk show host Ed Schultz passed suddenly in July.
At the Schultz funeral, Michaels made a decision to call his doctor the following day.
“They found that the valve had failed again,” Michaels said.
He was sent to heart specialist Roxanne Newman at Sanford Health, who told him the situation was “urgent and serious” and he needed immediate care at Mayo.
Doctors there, Michaels said, enlarged his aorta opening and put in the biggest mechanical valve possible.
“I guess I have a big Norwegian heart,” he said.
A big heart is true when it comes to his work with the community. Michaels has been a driving force behind “The Christmas Gift,” a local effort that started in 1990 to provide Christmas gifts to those in need.
The total raised to date in that span is somewhere between $1.4 and $1.5 million, Michaels said. This year’s “Freeway of Love” on Fashion Avenue gala on Nov. 20 at the Great Hall at the Fargo Holiday Inn is almost sold out.
“It’s been very rewarding and heartwarming,” Michaels said.
The Bison PA job has been rewarding. He took it over about 20 years ago when former Voice of the Bison Lyle Hokanson began losing his voice. Hokanson was the staple PA Bison football guy dating back to the days of Dacotah Field.
It’s been quite a run for two guys.
“A long time,” Michaels said. “That was on my mind when I went through this whole process. How soon can I get back? I used that as a motivating factor. Even though some of the people down in Rochester didn’t know what I was talking about, I said ‘Go Bison’ a lot going into the procedures.”
He knows football. Michaels played at Valley City State. He loved playing the game, doesn’t miss the practices, but misses being around the guys.
He currently owns Dan Michaels Audio, a private business venture that takes advantage of his vocal ability. The 56-year-old made his name for many years as disc jockey on local FM radio. Like most radio personalities, he took some liberties over the years on the mic, like at the Fargodome. There were times, he said, when NDSU administrators told him to pull back the reins.
He’s been the subject of other teams, too. South Dakota State head football coach John Stiegelmeier once questioned Michaels’ behavior in a 2006 pre-game press conference.
“If he bends the rules. …” Stiegelmeier said. “I appreciate the rivalry and I appreciate the intensity of people who follow it. But I want a level playing field and if the announcer – if they’re making artificial noises while we’re trying to return a kickoff – that’s illegal. We don’t do that here and I don’t think any place should do that.”
If Michaels has toned it down, it hasn’t been noticeable. His favorite is the fan response to a Bison first down.
Times have changed with fan behavior since 2006, also. There were days toward the end of the Division II era in 2003 when the dome was about half full. When former head coach Craig Bohl was hired in 2003, one of his pulpits was to get fans involved in the game.
“It was almost like going to church,” Michaels said. “We live in a place, fantastic people who are very polite and when you got them into an indoor facility, the people didn’t want to make noise at first. They didn’t want to stand in fear of getting in the way of somebody behind them.”
That has changed. Radically changed. NDSU’s home field advantage has morphed into one of the best in college football in any division. The PA announcer is along for the ride.
“I love it when the crowd is going crazy,” Michaels said. “I just try to be a part of it. I don’t try to shout over it.”
On Saturday, when the Bison get ready for the opening kickoff against Youngstown, the PA announcer won’t take for granted the feeling of another game in front of 18,000-plus fans.
“Physically, I’m feeling pretty good,” Michaels said. “Otherwise, I’m feeling extraordinarily thankful. I’m feeling thankful to the lord, my doctors and nurses and my friends and family. Everybody has been so spectacular.”