Hornets.com 1-on-1: Radio broadcaster Emilio Peralta

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Emilio Peralta has one of the most unique perspectives of New Orleans Hornets basketball in the city, as the team’s play-by-play broadcaster on its Spanish radio broadcasts. The University of North Carolina graduate is in his fifth season announcing games for the Hornets, dating back to 2008-09.

Peralta is teaming with broadcast partner David Lopez this season to call all 82 games on ESPN Deportes WODT 1280 AM. The native of Chile is also a columnist for TodoSport, a bi-weekly free New Orleans newspaper. Peralta joined Hornets.com this week to provide some additional background on his role with the team, including a few of the distinctive nicknames he has for Hornets players:

Hornets.com: It’s been documented that New Orleans’ Hispanic population has grown significantly post-Katrina. Was that part of how the idea originated to broadcast NBA games here in Spanish?
Peralta: Absolutely. The Latino community boomed after Katrina in 2005. At the time in 2007, a lot of people called us crazy to try to broadcast the Hornets: “Latinos don’t like basketball; Latinos only like soccer. No one will support you… etc. … etc.” We tried to do only 21 games when Latinos players visited the New Orleans Arena in 2007-08, but it was too late. In 2008, we started carrying only the home games on WFNO (830 AM), until this year when ESPN Deportes 1280AM decided to go with a full schedule. We’ve hosted three successful Latin Nights. I have to say, there have been a lot of people behind the scenes pulling for this. People that are no longer with the team, but it’s been a group effort. A lot of people put their name on the line in order to make “this craziness” happen.

Hornets.com: What kind of feedback do you get from Spanish-speaking Hornets fans you meet in New Orleans?
Peralta: This has always been the question, that Latinos don’t listen to basketball because they don’t like it or because no one was broadcasting it and reaching out to them. After five years, we know the answer. You see more Latino faces in the Arena. You see more people calling in to the sports show to talk about the Hornets. You see more Hispanic media in the locker room. We’ve done three Latino Nights since 2010 where we have had more than 1,000 people staying for the postgame concert. We see on a regular basis the flags of Venezuela, Mexico or Honduras at the Arena. The feedback is positive. People are learning the game; people are listening; people are following the team. There is a commitment from the radio, the team and fans. It’s a beautiful thing.

Hornets.com: The Hornets have one Spanish-speaking player, point guard Greivis Vasquez (pictured, being interviewed by Peralta). His English is excellent and he is one of the friendliest guys on the Hornets, but do you find he also enjoys being able to do interviews with you in Spanish?
Peralta: First of all, Greivis loves to talk to the media. He’s always willing to spend time with everyone. But there are two things you need to know: 1) Greivis and I grew up in the same area in Caracas, Venezuela, and we have people in common. So, there is a certain friendship that causes us to always talk off the record before I turn on my recorder. 2) Spanish-speaking people talk a lot and don’t say much. In other words, what you can say in English in 10 sentences, we need 10 paragraphs in Spanish to say the same. Therefore, an interview of Greivis in English would last 60 seconds while the same interview in Spanish could last five minutes. We Latinos are romantic people; we decorate everything we say. It is part of the culture.

Hornets.com: Who are some of the Spanish-speaking players around the league you’ve enjoyed interviewing in the language?
Peralta: I have to pick only one: Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers. You can talk to Gasol about everything, from AIDS to the crisis in Gaza. Incredibly remarkable. Gustavo Ayon of Orlando always will give you a lot of time, and Nene of Washington will answer everything with a smile on his face.

Hornets.com: Have you ever seen or heard any concern from the players who are Spanish speakers that their words might be slightly misconstrued or that some of what they say to the English-speaking media may not translate exactly to what they’re trying to convey?
Peralta: If you are Latino and English is your second language, you’ve been through that. Of course, they sometimes say, “If I could’ve said that in Spanish, it would be different...” However, that happens with any language. For example, if you want to translate a joke in English into Spanish, people still would laugh, but I promise you that joke is twice as funny in English and vice versa.

Hornets.com: Through a month-plus of the regular season, from your perspective, what has been the most surprising development for the Hornets?
Peralta: The ability of Ryan Anderson to shoot the ball from any angle without even being positioned. That is amazing. I’m glad I can call his triples. They are a luxury. Greivis Vasquez’s game compared to last year is on the rise. And Al-Farouq Aminu is a different player from last year.

Hornets.com: I’ve seen you mention that you have a nickname en Espanol for Ryan Anderson, “La Pistola.” What does that mean, and are you working on any other nicknames in Spanish for Hornets players?
Peralta: La Pistola means The Pistol because he is automatic. He grabs the ball, and boom, boom, boom: triple! Greivis Vasquez is El Soldadito which means Tin Soldier or Soldier Toy. Jason Smith is El Santo which means The Saint, which is the most prominent and famous Mexican luchador (wrestler). Smith is always fighting, diving, jumping, running. You see Smith after the game, and he has ice bags on both knees, shoulders, scratches everywhere like a real luchador. Also, he was close to Gustavo Ayon, living in the same apartment complex. Anthony Davis is Dhalsim from the video game, Street Fighter. Do you remember him? The fighter from India with arms so long that you couldn’t even come close to him.