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March 09, 1990 - Image 63

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-09

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Special to The Jewish News

t's a few minutes after
7 p.m. and sports broad-
caster Jim Shafran runs
a brush through his wavy,
brown hair, preparing for
another television appear-
For the next two hours,
Shafran and color commen-
tator Kevin Byrnes will bring
the Continental Cablevision
basketball Game of the Week
to suburban Detroit viewers.
Their play-by-play tapestry
will be woven from a
makeshift broadcast "booth"
— a metal folding table
fronted by a cloth promo-
tional banner — mounted
precariously in the cramped
top bleacher rows of a subur-
ban high school gym. There
are maybe 75 fans at the
game, mostly students and
If things break right — bad
weather and a lousy network
television schedule — the au-
dience could be three or four
times larger when the game
is broadcast on Continental's



local origination Channel 11
the following night.
And the pay? Well, Shafran
isn't exactly running to ditch
his day job as assistant
manager at a men's clothing
So much for the glamour
life of a television personality.
Yet, Shafran will tell you he
wouldn't be anywhere else on
this cold, damp winter night.
The dedication to his craft
and his love for the games run
that deep.
"This is my NBA, my big
leagues and I don't think I'd
give it up for anything right
now," he says, removing his
headset for the night.
The Southfield resident
says he is content being a
"medium-sized fish in the big
pond." Besides, at 36 and in
his eighth year as a cable
television freelancer, he
knows the score: a full-time
job with one of Detroit's net-
work affiliates or in-
dependents — even a radio
station — would have come
years ago.
Not that cable sportscasting
is so small-time anymore. For
this game, a Michigan In-

dependent Athletic Con-
ference match-up between
Southfield Christian and
Lutheran Northwest, Shafran
is working with a crew of nine
people, including three
camera operators and a direc-
tor, the latter calling camera
shots from Continental's pro-
duction truck in the parking
lot. The target audience is
43,000 subscribers in Oak
Park, Southfield, West Bloom-
field, Orchard Lake, Keego
Harbor and Sylvan Lake.
The telecast will feature in-
stant replays and plenty of
computer-generated graphics
listing player and team
"We try to keep things as
close to a live broadcast as
possible, even though the
game will run on tape tomor-
row," Shafran says. "There
really isn't that much post
production editing. I think it's
better that way."
Shafran's announcing style
is a carefully orchestrated
mix of understatement and
hyperbole. On this night,
listening to him at the mike
is like watching a pot of water
heat to a boil.



Area teams can be happy
cable TV's Jim Shafran
hasn't lost his love for sports
or sportscasting.

Early in the game, as a
Southfield Christian player
executes a smooth finger-roll
for a basket, Shafran sits
back and calls the shot a
"great move," but in much the
same tone as someone asking
a dining partner to pass the
Later in the first half,
Shafran picks it up a notch,
turning up the volume and
uttering a pet phrase or two,
such as "Look what I found!"
after a particularly neat
bucket. By the end of the
third quarter, Shafran's game
call is boiling over into the
Shafran's play-by-play
shows a keen sense of humor.
"Well, we're back:' he says
after the intermission, then
deadpans, "And isn't it amaz-
ing how the lead stayed the
same during half-time."
Shafran says his broadcast
style is pretty much his own
personality. "I'm really in-
troverted in a lot of ways," he
says. "But when I get into
something, I really get into it.
"A lot of time, I don't know
what I'm going to say until it
comes out of my mouth."

"As far as patterning my
style after anybody, I try not
to do that, at least on a con-
scious level:' Shafran says. "I
don't want people to say
`you're trying to copy so-and-
so! "
Byrnes, a full-time sports
producer for WJBK-TV
(Channel 2), says he and
Shafran have developed a
chemistry as partners the last
two seasons. "He's pretty easy
to work with:' Byrnes says of
his colleague.
Shafran says his favorite
sportcasters are George
Blaha of the Detroit Pistons
and Frank Beckman, WJR
Radio. "A lot of people raise
an eyebrow when I say Blaha,
because he's so — what's the
word I'm looking for? — bom-
bastic, I guess. But he really
makes the game fun and he
has an excellent vocabulary.
"Beckman I like because
he's the perfect example of be-
ing prepared. He knows his
stuff," says Shafran.
Nationally, it's the crew on
cable's ESPN that Shafran
admires. "But really," he says
"at that level, everybody's
pretty good. They wouldn't be



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