Growing up in Iran, Nick Zahab often narrated imaginary soccer games to put his little brother to sleep. These days, he keeps Iranian Laker fans awake as the play-by-play man for radio station KIRN's Farsi-language broadcasts of the Laker games on 670 AM. Well, play-by-play man and cultural ambassador to Southern California's hundreds of thousands of Iranian immigrants. "Professional sports is being introduced to our culture and bringing the flavor of our community to America," says the Northridge resident.
The broadcast began this season after Spanish-language Laker games moved temporarily to KIRN from sister station KWKW, prompting a clamor from Farsi listeners for similar coverage, says John Paley, KIRN general manager. Zahab, 53, a veteran sportscaster who covered the 2002 World Cup games and the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Iranian satellite radio and TV stations, shares a Staples Center booth with color commentator Nader Zehtab, who acts as the engineer and compiles statistics. The pair cover away games by TV feed. "[Southern California's Iranian] community knows the Lakers and loves the Farsi broadcasters," says Zehtab, 43. "Everybody tells me they turn the TV sound down and listen to us on the radio."
As for ups and downs of the job, Zahab speaks glowingly of the Lakers: "Shaq greets us and shakes hands." The challenges, it seems, are all in the translation. Basketball argot doesn't convert easily into Farsi, which dates to the 9th century. "We don't have specialized terminology in Farsi for 'slam dunk,' " Zahab says.
All the same, Zahab, who manages a floor covering company in Culver City by day, has an expansive view of his night job, noting: "The National Football League is becoming popular in the Iranian community."