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Lawyers Try To Make a Case They Really Ought to Be Sports Announcers

Times Staff Writer

Attorneys Marc Kartman and David Slavin grew up on the East Coast, shared a love for sporting events and, although they had never met, longed for careers as sports broadcasters.

Comfortable and prosperous in their law practices, however, neither liked the prospect of starting over as announcers at the bottom of the salary ladder.

For years they pondered their futures--Kartman, 34, a West Los Angeles resident and corporate personnel attorney for an El Segundo aerospace firm, and Slavin, 35, in his New York City divorce practice.

Then, last April, both attended a fantasy baseball broadcasting camp in Arizona where Kartman beat out Slavin in a contest to call the play-by-play on cable TV for one inning of a San Francisco Giants baseball game.

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Their broadcasting careers have not advanced past that inning of work in September. Yet Kartman and Slavin, who were teamed in front of the microphone at the camp, have become bicoastal lawyer-turned-broadcaster celebrities. They have appeared on an NBC news program and have been featured in numerous radio and print media stories.

They are “brothers in the booth,” according to Kartman: two men taking an indirect approach of living out childhood dreams.

“I realize I’m not going the normal route,” said Kartman of his attempt to get into the broadcasting business. “But I hope this is different enough that maybe somebody, out of the thousands and thousands of demo tapes floating around out there, maybe someone will hear me and say, ‘Why not him?’ ”

Why not him? says Slavin. “Lots of people in the world are doing jobs that they don’t like. You’ve got to give something you like a try sometime.”

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Slavin says the first try will probably belong to Kartman.

“He’s a little ahead of where I am,” he said. “He seems to have a more natural flow.”

Slavin and Kartman first met by the swimming pool of a Tempe hotel where 11 fantasy broadcasters had assembled for five days of instruction at the Giants’ spring training facility. The event was put on by Roy Englebrecht of Newport Beach as part of his Sportscaster Camps of America.

As a team, the pair broadcast game action at a concurrent fantasy camp that included former Giant stars and selected Bay Area fans. One of the former players was Willie Mays. The cost of $1,200 each for the five days seems incidental now to Kartman and Slavin. They attended their second SCA fantasy camp at Loyola Marymount University last July.

“The only way to see if you have the ability is to go out and do it,” said Slavin by phone from his New York home.

Similarities in their broadcasting styles and in their lives are striking. Slavin calls it “common ground.”

Slavin has lived on the East Coast all his life. Kartman was born and raised in Baltimore.

“That, along with the fact we are both attorneys, made us see things along the same lines,” said Slavin.

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Then there is their love of sports.

“We’re both sick sports fans,” Slavin said. “We’d rather watch ESPN than have sex.”

Kartman, a Baltimore Orioles fan who played lacrosse at Duke University, spends much of his spare time at Dodgers and Angels games. He takes a small tape recorder with him and, as the game progresses, calls the play-by-play from the stands.

“It is a good way to start,” Kartman said.

Slavin sits in front of his television, wired to cable, where he says he can access at least a dozen college football games each weekend.

Getting started in the business is something both men are trying to figure out. Kartman says he will consider a leave of absence from his law job if he can secure a broadcasting spot for a year with a minor league baseball team.

“You have to start somewhere near the bottom,” he said.

Slavin, an independent counselor, hopes to work broadcasting into his schedule on a part-time basis.

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A big drawback: Both admit they have well-established lives to consider before making radical career changes.

Said Slavin: “I’m married. Marc is married. We both are thinking about having families. I don’t know how feasible this broadcasting is.”

Kartman says he will have to “play it by ear” if such an offer comes. He plans to send out audition tapes to selected radio and TV stations soon.

Kartman called the exposure the pair received at the fantasy camp “an exciting experience.”

In the NBC clip, Kartman and Slavin are seen broadcasting parts of a fantasy game and then listening to veteran sportscaster Ray Scott tell them to remember that unlike other events “in baseball there is always hope” until the final out. Later Scott tells how he would have liked a career as a trial lawyer because it has similarities with broadcasting.

Kartman previewed a video tape of himself interviewing former Giant pitcher Ray Sadecki. Looking sharp in a dark beard and blue blazer, Kartman asked Sadecki who was the most difficult batter he faced in his career.

“Roberto Clemente was my toughest out,” Sadecki replied, leaning into Kartman’s hand-held microphone. “He would drive me nuts.”

Slavin, a dark-haired, husky man with a distinctive East Coast accent, pointed out why he feels Kartman is the better broadcaster of the two.

“When I listen to our tapes, the first thing I notice is that Marc has that sportscaster-type voice. He is a knowledgeable sports guy. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on stuff that isn’t important. He does a good job analyzing what he sees.”

In the out-takes that Kartman previewed for a reporter, he appeared best when broadcasting live events. In a 5-minute studio sportscast his inexperience showed in voice-overs with filmed highlights.

Kartman acknowledges that there is always room for improvement.

“It takes lots of preparation to be successful,” he said. “You can’t just go out and wing it.”

And that’s the drawback for both men, too, as they consider a leap into the broadcasting profession. They can’t afford to “wing it” in their present careers while looking to the future.

Kartman admitted, however, that looking for a broadcasting spot is a lot easier when you already have a job.

Slavin agreed: "(We) have something to fall back on.”


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