The phenomenon of sports radio is largely a North American one. At last count there were over 300 stations, from college through the massive networks of ESPN, FoxSports, Sports Byline, Westwood One and others, who covered local issues, broadcast national outlets and filled the airwaves with opinion, guests and talk. That doesn’t count the ever growing and very diverse number of podcasts and blogtalk radio along with other shows that include sports or sports as news segments throughout the week.
However outside of the continent, the concept of sports talk 24/7 is relatively unknown. Maybe its because we as Americans and Canadians have too much time on our hands, or maybe because in other parts of the world sport is taken more as tribal ritual with a local spin more than a national debate. Maybe its also because we have such a diverse amount of sport here on a very high level that there is so much to talk about, as opposed to other areas where a national sport is king. The rise of streaming has also given those expats interested in American sport a chance to listen online whenever they want, and get their fix that way. So it is into that mix the past few weeks that i was introduced to a novel venture, right now only online (because of restrictions in over the air broadcasting) called Israel Sports Radio. Broadcasting from the Middle East, the station was the dreamchild of three expats with a passion for sports, not just American but Israeli and international as well, and with an idea on how to reach a diverse community. Andy Gershman, Ari Louis, and Josh “The Sports Rabbi” Halickman take calls, debate the NCAA tournament and the Yankees and cover Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Israel Football League just like the Mets and Giants would be covered in New York. They are totally professional and respectful in nature and have drawn a wide variety of guests in their primetime shows, as well as a growing following of listeners. The audience is a mix of Middle Easterners who have started to warm to American sports, expats living in the area wanting to get the latest on American sports, and others who want to get more information and opinion on all going on in European competition from Premier League to the European Hoops Championships.. The trio and some others run the operation as a side job and on a shoestring budget, but are growing their efforts and catching an audience who is getting more and more used to sports talk, especially with the rise of digital broadcasts, YouTube and Social Media. Is it something which will supplant traditional state-run radio broadcastin. No. But it is an interesting alternative and a great example of seizing an opportunity to have sport be a common ground amongst cultures through broadcast. Halickman's hope is that corporations and others see the venture as a worthy one to access those passing business and pleasure back and forth between the States and Europe, and that sports brands use the station as a vehicle to expand their voice. Will it succee.? Well there were few when Suzyn Waldman became the first voice of WFAN Radio in New York that said sports radio would succeed here, and everyone knows how large the industry has become, and that was before the use of digital technology further expanded the airwaves. It has a chance, a buzz and some creators with a passion. With a growing listenership and some innovative brands, who know. Regardless it is certainly worthy of a look and a listen, just as much as any other digital startup is these days.