After spending more than a dozen years outside of radio work, veteran Detroit sports broadcaster and longtime Bloomfield resident Eli Zaret has returned to the airwaves on WJR Radio, where he's doing sports commentary as part of the "Guy Gordon Show."
"I started out doing radio commentary. It was opinionated commentary taking a stance, outside of the regular of just giving scores. That kind of made my name on FM radio," Zaret said. "It's ironic because back in the day, WJR didn't do that stuff. They were very upbeat and positive. That was the antithesis of what I was about. I was the antichrist to what WJR was. It's ironic that it’s coming full circle. Before, I was the only one doing sports commentary on FM radio, and now it's on WJR.
"Except for (97.1 FM) The Ticket, there is nobody else doing any sports radio in Detroit, other than brief sports updates on WWJ. Other than longform, there's nobody else doing what I'm doing right now."
The daily sports feature, "After Further Review" airs weekdays at 4:36 p.m. Zaret said he tries to make the segment appealing to both hardcore sports fans and casual listeners by looking at sports and social issues to give a different perspective on what's happening in the sports world.
"We don't talk about golf, per se, but we talk about Tiger Woods," he explained.
Originally from New Jersey, Zaret came to Michigan to attend the University of Michigan. He began his broadcast career in 1974 as the first FM sportscaster at WABX-FM. In 1978, he became the sports director at WRIF-FM about the same time, getting into television as the sports director at WDIV-TV. He has also held positions at WJBK-TV and WCSX-FM.
"I have been to more stations and done more different things than any sportscaster ever in this market," Zaret said.
In 1997, he created, produced and hosted "Lockeroom TV," a television and radio show he co-hosted with Kirk Gibson and Gary Danielson on Fox Sports Detroit, WDIV and WXYT. From 2005 to 2012, Zaret worked for Palace Sports and Entertainment as a host and sideline reporter for the Detroit Pistons. He has also owned Eli Zaret Advertising for the past 14 years, and worked for two years as director of business development for The Sussman Agency in Southfield.
During the 1980s, Zaret left Detroit for a brief stint in sports broadcast in New York, but returned to his base in Detroit.
"I realized I needed to come back here, and it was a mistake to leave in the first place," he said. "I was very fortunate to come back. A lot of people were angry when I left, and I can see why."
No matter the city, sports fans tend to be loyal to those in their hometown. That's particularly true in Detroit, where sports are one of the main sources of entertainment. Zaret said there's also a sense of midwest pride in the Motor City, which tends to fall on sports teams. And, because nobody needs to be an expert to have an opinion, Zaret's brand of coverage has been popular throughout his career.
"That's the beauty of sports. Everyone has a point of view and thinks they know better than the coaches," he said. "Everyone understands the game. You can have these arguments and we all get emotional and have an opinion. It's part of the magic of it all."
Photo: Jean Lannen