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Saturday, September 20, 2014

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Toronto accountant shines in sportscasting competition

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Andrew Damelin

There’s no stopping Andrew Damelin when he starts talking about sports. The 29-year-old chartered accountant and aspiring sportscaster has been a sports fan since he was a child. One of his earliest memories is of attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game for his seventh birthday.

But even though his love for sports continued throughout high school – he said he was the only “white guy” on the Vaughan Road Academy Vipers basketball team, and was called “Screech” by the home crowd because of his “Jew-fro” – he never really considered turning it into a career.

“I was so terrified to go into a career that the pay is so dicey,” said Damelin, who grew up in Forest Hill in Toronto. “You know the pressures of the Jewish community – you’ve got to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant. I just decided to go for the safe route.”

The safe route, in his case, was to become an accountant. He never looked back, until he saw an ad for Gillette Drafted, a reality show searching for “Canada’s next sportscaster.” He tried out every year for three years, never making it past the first auditions.

This year, he impressed the judges with his knowledge of the financial and economic side of basketball and his video interviewing Boston sports fans about the controversies surrounding their sports teams.

“This year was different. I went there with the attitude that I don’t care and I’m just going to be myself,” he said.

He was one of 24 finalists, out of about 800 who auditioned, and made it to the next round: sportscasting boot camp. They went through challenges including a sports trivia test, a co-hosting challenge and a teleprompter read.

“Obviously, I was terrified to do it. I had no experience at all in front of the camera, except for my cousin’s bar mitzvah, when they had this Entertainment Tonight theme and they asked me to be the host,” he said.

The finalists also made their own promotional videos. Damelin made a parody video about the Leafs, which he called A Franchise that I Used to Know to the tune of Gotye’s hit summer tune, Somebody that I Used to Know. It went viral and has had more than 120,000 views.

“It went totally beyond any of my expectations,” Damelin said. “It got lots of people saying that I’m meant to do this, that I’ve created something different, unique, and no other competitor created a video that had any mass appeal.”

This helped him land a spot as one of six finalists chosen for the reality show itself, which was filmed over 10 days in August, without quitting his accounting job.

“In the beginning, everyone was rather friendly, but as days went on, people got more tired, more stressed, and tensions went up,” he said. “There are 50 people on set staring at you while you do your talent, and you only get one shot at everything. I had a great time doing it.”

The winner will be chosen on the basis of on-air presence, sports IQ and online voting.

Despite the pressure and competition, Damelin said this has been the most unforgettable experience of his life. “To have an opportunity to enjoy life, and [to spend it] on something safe or not so meaningful to me is such a waste, and I’m going after that dream [job] now,” he said.

His blog, which can be found at damelin.net, is about the NBA and NFL, and was also just picked up by another publication.

The results of this year’s Gillette Drafted will be aired in a live show on Nov. 12.

“If I don’t win, then Nov. 13 I’ll get my application ready and contact as many people as I know in the industry and try to get in. I’m going to pursue this and keep writing and keep making videos,” he said. “I haven’t gotten paid for any of this, but this is the most fun professionally I’ve ever had.”

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