Enrique Vasquez braced for the first big break of his career. It was Week 1 of the 1992 season for the Houston Oilers and he was sitting in the booth as the color commentator for the Spanish broadcast team. Growing up in Houston, he had routinely listened to the famous broadcasters of the time, such as the legendary Vin Scully. But here he was wearing a headset trying to duplicate all the famous voices he’d heard as a kid, but with his own Spanish flavor to it. The only problem, was that all the broadcasts he had listened to where in English. Though Vasquez is Hispanic, he wasn’t exactly sure what a Spanish-language broadcast was supposed to sound like.
It wasn’t until that very day for the ’92 season opener for the Oilers’, that he heard his first ever Spanish broadcast.
That’s right, Vasquez had never heard a Spanish broadcast in his life until the day he actually did it for an NFL team.
Something must have clicked, because 27 years later, he’s still going at it as hard as ever. Today, Vasquez serves as the play-by-play voice for the Spanish broadcast of both the Houston Texans and Oklahoma Sooners. That means long hours of prep during the week and a rigorous travel schedule on the weekend to catch both games. But still, he’s having the time of his life.
“My prep usually starts on Tuesday,” said Vasquez. “I’ll go over the previous game by listening to our broadcast and seeing how everything went, both technically and on the call, as well. Wednesday is media day for the Texans so I’m attending that. But since I’m away from OU, most of my prep work for them comes online and reading different things. By Thursday I’m working on my charts and spotter boards for the upcoming games of the weekend. I’m usually leaving on Friday to get to the OU game and then turning around quickly to get to the Texans game.”
Trust me when I say the weather Saturday night for the Bedlam Game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State wasn’t pleasant. A frigid wind, that felt more like an arctic blast, made for a pretty brutal evening in Stillwater. But while both the OU and OSU radio crews were huddled in their respective enclosed press boxes, Vasquez and his color analyst, Luis Rendon, were in the open air TV booth where the elements were in full effect.
But that’s life on the road for Vasquez and Rendon. Since most stadiums can only accommodate the main broadcast teams, as well as a national radio crew that may be on hand, odd broadcasting locations is something of a norm.
“Our toughest location was at TCU last year,” said Vasquez. “We were behind the end zone sitting outside near the fans and just below the scoreboard. The photo decks aren’t bad, I’m kind of used to that now. They’re open and at least you have a location. Over the years, even at the NFL level, I started doing this in 1992 and that’s kind of always been the case. But as more broadcasts such as Spanish radio have become more prevalent, stadiums have been more accommodating.”
Not every set up is tough for Vasquez and Rendon. In fact, they’ll have one their best this weekend when Oklahoma takes on Baylor for the Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. But no matter where the game is, they do serve as their own on-site engineers. Granted, they do have another team member that helps with social media content on the @LosSooners Twitter page, but it’s essentially a two-man show on the air every Saturday.
Locally, the OU Spanish broadcast can be heard on two signals across the state: El Patron 101.5 FM in Tulsa and Exitos 96.5 FM in Oklahoma City. It can also be heard via the TuneIn Radio app, where more and more listeners around the globe have started to listen to the broadcast.
“We’ve gotten a big following internationally with Mexico,” Vasquez said. “We’ve also gotten messages from people in Spain, really just all over the place. A lot of people have been able to find the broadcast. The OU brand is big, so that obviously helps, as well as having Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield and all the winning they’ve been doing recently. All of that has really helped our broadcast. In terms of the radio numbers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, to be honest I haven’t seen the numbers of what the audiences is, but I’ve heard we’ve gotten a really good response.”
Though college and NFL teams in the southwest have had Spanish radio broadcasts for years, Oklahoma is in year number three with its new team. Seeing the audience the broadcast team has already created, it seems like a sure thing only more and more Spanish radio crews will find their way on the air.
That’s a good thing, and who knows, maybe Vasquez’s career as the Spanish voice for both an NFL team and college football blue blood could spark a new generation of Hispanic broadcasters.
TYLER MCCOMAS: How aware of college football is Hispanic community?
ENRIQUE VASQUEZ: I really think it’s growing. Football in general, the NFL has always been big, I think the Dallas Cowboys even had Spanish radio back in the late 1970s. They have been fans of football for a while now but getting used to the college thing, I think that’s a little bit new. I think the Texas Longhorns have been around for 25 years doing their Spanish radio. But I really think there’s a good following in northern Mexico for college football. It’s been that way for a long time.
TM: How passionate are they?
EV: I really think they’re getting there. Unless you get immersed in the traditions of it, and now that we’ve been going on for three years, I think that’s obviously going to help. Following the NFL and following football in general, the fans are there and now it’s just getting them acclimated to the OU brand.
TM: What play-by-play experience led to you being able to do this?
EV: I started in 1992 with the Houston Oilers. At the time I was a color commentator. In 1993 I did the play-by-play. From there I went to Fox Sports International and we broadcasted the NFL games to Mexico and Latin America. I got to do the Game of the Week for the NFL as well as Super Bowl 31 and 32. I did the Dallas Cowboys for a couple of years and then I joined the Houston Texans in 2002, where I still am today. When the opportunity came with OU, everything worked out with our schedules, seeing as I also do the Texans.
TM: Tell me about your color commentator.
EV: Luis Rendón is his name. He’s a graduate student at OU and he’s been working for Sooner Vision for a while. He’s from Venezuela. He’s become a big OU fan, so for him this is become relatively new. He wasn’t really a broadcaster but he was bilingual and worked at Sooner Vision, so this is new to him. But he works really hard at it and I think we make a really good team. It’s been a lot of fun working with them.
TM: Since it’s just you and Luis, how long of a pre and postgame show are you doing?
LV: Pregame show is 30 minutes and the postgame show is about 15 minutes. Plus, we’ll do stuff for social media after the game.
TM: How would you describe your broadcast style? What should someone that’s never listened to a Spanish broadcast before expect?
LV: I think my style is different from the typical Spanish football guy because I grew up here in the United States. The first broadcast in Spanish that I ever listened to was one that I was on. I grew up listening to the same guys as you did. The Vin Scully‘s, all the big names that called games when I was a kid, that’s what I listened to grown-up. But you do have to add in a Hispanic flavor to it. It’s just different. It’s not better or worse it’s just different. But we have fun with it. My style is more the American style with a little Hispanic flavor to it.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.