You’re an immigrant in Israel from L.A. and you want to follow the Lakers. Or you’re an oleh from the U.K. and you’re keen on Manchester United.
Till now, you have to find the scores online or watch the weekly, late-night NBA broadcasts on Israeli cable TV.
Now you can listen to sports talk all the time. Well, part of the time.
Israel Sports Radio, which bills itself as the country’s “first all-sports talk radio station,” took its first call Monday on the Internet (israelsportsradio.com), with a crew of part-time broadcasters and a Sunday-Thursday, eight hours a day schedule.
There’s a lot of interest in sports in Israel among members of the 300,000-strong English-speaking (so-called Anglo) community, but not enough to warrant 24/7 programming, says Andy Gershman, the Richmond, Va.-born co-founder of ISR. His partners are Ari Louis, from Phoenix, and Josh Halickman, a Montreal native.
“We’re all big [sports] fans,” veteran listeners of, and callers into, sports talk shows in North America, Gershman says in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. They all missed the talk shows when they made aliyah in recent years, he says.
So they decided to start their own network.
In Israel, where politics and military concerns dominate, sports are a lower priority on radio, Gershman says. “No Israeli broadcaster has consistently devoted more than one hour per day to sports coverage — with absolutely nothing in English.”
Most of the ISR chat will be in English, with a weekly program planned in Hebrew. Callers can talk about basketball and flag football, hiking and physical fitness, baseball and college sports and fantasy football, or any other athletic topic. The only live coverage will be Thursday night broadcasts of Israel Football League games from Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem.
ISR “shouldn’t be any different” from sports talk radio in the States, just “with a Jewish-Israeli flavor,” Gershman says.
The network started this week with shows devoted to rugby and cricket. Then soccer. And some “sports comedy.” The staff — all have other jobs — includes Jeremy Last, Tal Ben-Ezra, author of a forthcoming Hebrew book about the NBA, and various hosts from the U.S., Great Britain and South Africa.
Interviews with prominent Jewish athletes are already lined up, Gershman says, including ones with Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi and three-time Israeli figure skating champion Tamar Katz.
The 4 p.m.-midnight broadcast schedule is geared to the 9-5 slot on the U.S. East Coast.
Why only on the Internet?
“Getting a bandwidth [in separate areas of Israel] is not the easiest process,” Gershman says. Online, “we can reach everyone.”
Americans can call in to Israel Sports Radio via a New York City number, (718) 305 5305.