Bally Sports Detroit’s Johnny Kane talks football Fridays and high school sports

By Ron Rop
LocalSportsJournal.com

When Johnny Kane recalls his days as a high school athlete, he readily admits there isn’t a whole lot to talk about.

A knee injury during his sophomore year put a halt to any hopes of playing varsity football for the Delta Panthers, a small school in northwestern Ohio.

Bally Sports Detroit’s Johnny Kane. Photo/Tim Reilly

Today, Kane is an on-air personality for Bally Sports Detroit. He is commonly seen wandering among the paying customers at Comerica Park during the Detroit Tigers season and Little Caesars Arena during the Detroit Pistons season.

But on Friday night, Kane stepped back into the world of high school sports.

Kane provided the play-by-play for the high school football showdown between the host Muskegon Big Reds and the Detroit Cass Tech Technicians. Former Green Bay Packer and Detroit Lion T.J. Lang provided the color commentary for the game that Cass Tech won in lopsided fashion.

So on a night when Tigers were in Cincinnati taking on the Reds, Kane was perched high above the artificial turf field of Hackley Stadium in the cramped, but cozy confines of the press box watching the Big Reds.

 The perfect atmosphere to delve into his prep days at Delta High School.

“I was a band member and then I injured my knee and that ended my football career during my sophomore year,” Kane said. “No varsity football and that was disappointing to me. But, that’s the way it goes.”

Instead, Kane ran track, cross country and played basketball. And it was on the hardcourt where Kane found some glory and a memory.

“Late in the game, which was typically when I flourished, I hit three 3-pointers and the third one put us at 100 points,” said Kane. “My mom and dad were there. It was a memorable shot and the student section went crazy. It was a good high school memory that I will cherish.”

These days, when he’s not covering the Tigers or the Pistons, who start their preseason late next month, Kane will be calling the action while high school athletes are hoping to make memories on the gridiron.

Muskegon’s Myles Walton finds the end zone during the Big Reds and Cass Tech football game called by Kane on Bally Sports Detroit. Photo/Tim Reilly

Bally Sports televised some games last year, but prior to that, it was just the state championship games at Ford Field in Detroit. This season, it’s a game every Friday night and Kane will be describing the action down on the field on seven of the nine-week regular season slate.

“Doing the lead play-by-play was something I wanted to do since I was little,” Kane said. “Having the opportunity on the high school level is pretty awesome.”

Whether it’s the Tigers, Pistons or a high school football game he’s covering, Kane said he’s living the dream. And there is nothing cliché about that statement for Kane, who previously worked in sportscasting in Kansas City, Topeka, Kansas and Hopkinsville, Ky.

“For me, I would work every day if I could,” Kane said. “I don’t have a family and children so sports is it for me. If I could do 162 baseball game and 82 NBA games and a full high school schedule. That would be the ultimate. I love being in Michigan and I love the group that I am with.”

Part of that group is the Bally Sports team that covers the Detroit Tigers. And Kane is loving every minute of it and it started from the very first day he came onboard.

“I knew from the very first time, January of 2015, I was welcomed right away,” Kane said. “They don’t have to put your arm around you and welcome you to the club. I was welcomed right away.”

Asked to pick a favorite among his co-workers, Kane could not answer.

“I can’t pick a favorite, we are all friends who enjoy working together,” said Kane, who then mentioned Kirk Gibson and John Keating.

“Gibby drops the gloves and makes no apologies for it,” said Kane, laughingly. “If you would have told me when I was 14 or 15 years old that Gibson would be sharing a few laughs at my expense, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s all good nature ribbing. He dishes it out. And John Keating, there is only one. He’s pretty good about setting the table and making sure it’s fun.”

Part of that “fun” is doing laps at Comerica Park.

Johnny Kanes makes fun during pregame commentary. Photo/Tim Reilly

“I take laps around the stadium,” Kane said. “I probably circle the stadium a half a dozen times or more, especially on the road. I like to see games from different parts of the park.”

One highlight for Kane during this Tiger season was seeing the Taylor North Little League team that captured the Little League World Series championship in Williamsport, Pa. Recently, that team was treated like royalty by the Tigers.

“These are baseball kids playing a kids game,” Kane said. “But when you win at that level and suddenly people are asking for their attention, it’s really cool. There were 10-year-old boys signing autographs for grown men. How cool was that and the kids were soaking it up.”

And then there are the fans who see a guy in a suit and tie with a microphone in his hand.

“Everybody wants to be on television,” Kane said. “But once the camera is pointed at them they don’t know how to react. Most people are great. And how refreshing it is from a season ago when there were no fans. It was just you, the players, the training staff and security in the ballpark. There were no people. It was eerie … it was like you were invited as a special guest to witness a pro game.

“But now the fans are back and you are able to hug the fans and take pictures with them,” said Kane. “It reminds me how much of a privilege it is to have this job.”

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