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LIFE AFTER HITZGES

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SPORTS When NORM HITZGES departed KERA’s Saturday Morning Sports Spectacular in March 1990, he left a legend-sized void to fill. Rumors circulated that TV reporters GREEY OHER, TIMM MATHEWS, and Tom Murray were all available. So why did program director MIKE NITKA hire STEVE SHAPIRO and MARK ELFENBEIN, basically two guys off the street?

“I saw a couple of enthusiastic sports fens who could do a show from the fen’s point of view,” Nitka explains.

The extent of Shapiro and Elfenbein’s “portfolio” was a three-minute videotape done by a Channel 5 reporter who picked them out of a crowd at a Mavericks draft party.

“I had gone to Norm’s farewell party,” Shapiro, 28, recalls. “The following Monday, while I was shaving, I thought, ’I’m going to call and apply for the job.’ I was shocked when they returned my call. I told them my partner and I were interested in an interview. Then I called Mark to tell him what I’d done.”

“I said, ’Let’s go for it,’” Elfenbein, 29, chimes in.

The pair were given a live trial show on April 28, 1990, and they’ve been bubbling over the airwaves every Saturday morning since. If they don’t equal Hitzges’s mark of 760 consecutive broadcasts, it won’t be for lack of enthusiasm, or words per minute. While discussing ROYTARPLEY’S future or the Rangers’ decision to dump PETE INCAVIGLIA, Elfenbein might declare, “I can’t beleeeve this guy,” with Shapiro coming in low, “It really makes you wonder.” They’re having fun living a dream come true.

“We do what every fan does,” Shapiro says. “We read the papers and watch cable.

The only difference is that now we have press credentials.”

“It’s a fan’s hour,” Elfenbein explains. “We want to give them the opportunity to talk. That’s one reason we have very few guests.”

Nitka admits that KERA would have had a hard time bringing in a pro with Hitzges’s stature and listener base in this market, though he adds that the duo’s ratings numbers “are almost as high as with Norm.”

Elfenbein offers another yardstick of success. “Hey,” he chirps, pointing to the studio’s phone bank, “the last month and a half, the lines have been full.”

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