You May Know Us From TV (November 2010)

If you're reading this blog entry then you probably already think that we're famous (largely because we're convinced that our mothers are the only ones that actually read this). But unless you are a television viewer in Guatemala or Latin America, you may not know the extent of our fame. As such, we thought we'd share a couple of experiences to demonstrate how we've worked ourselves into the Latin American cultural fabric.

As a precursor, it is important to know that in Gutaemala, and Latin America generally, that sport is an essential element of culture. Anyone that has been to a Latin American sporting event or even been in Latin America during the soccer World Cup knows what a central role sports plays in everyday life. People are passionate about sports here- sometimes to an extreme, which results in things like soccer riots. If you haven't seen this first hand then trust us sports are more important here than in the US (when is the last time you heard of a baseball riot?).

Also given their popularity, for many people television is the central means of watching sports. At any given time you can turn on the television here and find no less than a half-dozen soccer games on. And during playoff time even baseball makes the front page of the Guatemalan newspapers (even though all sports other than soccer are a VERY distant second in the hearts of sports fans).

With that background, you will now be able to appreciate our new found television sports fame. Our first moment of fame occurred during the baseball playoffs when the Yankees were playing the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series. We were watching the Spanish language broadcast on TV. But just to built the suspense, first a few quick notes on watching American sports on TV in Latin America:

- First, watching sports you know on TV in a foreign language is pretty fun since they have some great terms for things; for example a homerun is "jonron" (which sounds exactly the same when pronounced in Spanish) and the right fielder is the "jardinero derecho", which literally translates as right gardener.

- Second, for most US sports they simply take the US broadcast and add Spanish commentators doing voice overs. For the most part this means that they do what you probably did at home as kid when you were practicing to be a sports commentator: turn down the volume and talk over the real commentators. This means that you can often hear the US broadcasters in the background. It also means that often images on the screen have no relation to what the Spanish broadcasters are talking about, but relate solely to US broadcast commentary. Thus the Spanish language commentators (and viewers) are left to come up with their own explanation for why they are showing a replay of a game from 5 years ago or an image of a moose in the woods.

- Third, for the most part and with the exception of special events (like the World Series), the Spanish "commentators" are sitting in their living room (or more likely a TV studio in Mexico or Atlanta), not at the actual game. This makes sense since the cost of deploying an entire broadcast team for each game would be prohibitive, especially when there isn't a big market for such games, and it allows them to show more games (since they can use the same commentators for a whole day of football games). But it does detract of the point of having commentators since the people in the studio have no better viewing perspective on the game than the viewers at home (and are often left with no explanation for something that has happened on the field). This means that the commentary tends to focus less on the action of the game and becomes more like the commentators having a conversation related to the particular game. Sometimes, especially during boring games, these conversations are very loosely related to the actual game on the field; such as the recent football game we were watching where the commentators engaged in a 10 minute conversation about the best NFL quarterbacks of all time while completely ignoring the action on the field (by the way, the answer was Joe Montana, who Latin American football broadcasters seem to be completely obsessed with- to the point that one time they even had Montana as a guest host, even though he speaks no Spanish whatsoever, which made for interesting television).

Back to our fame and the American League Championship Series that we were watching on TV. From time to time, the commentators of the Yankees/Rangers game would give shout-outs to people watching at home. For example, they'd say things like "Hello to my friend Jose Gonzalez and his family who are watching this game from Monterrey". Towards the end of one of the games, at a key point when the outcome of the game was going to be decided, Meg (not being a Yankee fan) was nodding off when she heard the broadcasters say: "Queremos decir hola a Meg y Jed Herrmann en Guatemala; Neoyorquinos y fanaticos de Los Yankees que estan mirando el partido desde Guatemala, saludos Meg y Jed Herrmann" (translation: We want to say hello to Meg and Jed Herrmann in Guatemala; they are New Yorkers and Yankee fans watching this game from Guatemala, greetings to Meg and Jed Herrmann).

Of course, it always great to get a shout out on international television, but is even more gratifying when you really get your wife's goat. First, Meg hasn't taken the Herrmann last name (it is unclear why anyone would turn down such a great name but she is very proud to be a Sullivan). Second, Meg isn't from New York (as she constantly reminds people) even though she's lived there for the majority of her post-college life. Third, Meg most certainly isn't a Yankees fan (in fact, she refused to allow me to even watch the Yankees-Twins division series with her). So now Meg is known as a Herrmann, New Yorker, and Yankees fan all across Latin America.

Our second moment of fame did not have quite as broad an audience though since it concerns soccer the people who did hear were likely very dedicated fans. We went down to the pacific coast of Guatemala for the weekend and there was a Guatemalan league soccer game in the town. Our hometown team (the Xela Super Chivos, or Super Goats) was visiting so we thought it would be fun to go and cheer them on.

Being visiting fans we thought it would be better to sit in the classy "club section" to avoid harassment (there aren't huge soccer riots in Guatemala but they still take their rooting pretty seriously) and because these fancy seats had a roof to shield the sun, which was well worth it since the game was played at noon when it was approximately 100 degrees (celsius, just kidding but it felt like it). It turns out that the club section as serves as the press box. Given that even local soccer games in Guatemala seem to be broadcast on multiple radio and TV channels, there were quite a few commentators with microphones there (though in an interesting reversal from US television broadcasts in Latin American, which we discussed above, these TV commentators don't have any monitors so they are literally just calling the game as they see it- since we were watching in person we can't say whether this makes for a better or worse TV broadcast than just sitting in the studio far away).

When we arrived the game had just gotten underway and the only available seats were between two dueling sets of commentators. So we spent the whole first half with a pair of commentators screaming in one ear and a trio of commentators screaming in the other ear. We could have learned a lot soccer knowledge in theory but we couldn't really hear what either group was shouting about the game.

At halftime, the trio of commentators introduced themselves and asked where we were from. We told them that we were from New York but living in Xela, which is why we were rooting for the Super Chivos (who were losing 1-0 at this point). We had a nice little chat with them. When they went back on the air at the beginning of the second half, they welcomed everyone back to the game "including our special visitors from New York City: Jed and Meg." Then he handed me the microphone (presumably for a welcome greeting) and I shouted "Go Super Chivos" to the viewers at home. Shortly into the half, the Xela team put in a substitute and we gave the player coming off the field a good cheer, leading the commentator to note "that our friends from New York are giving him a strong applause for a job well done".

Also shortly into the half, the Super Chivos scored to even the game at 1-1 leading us to cheer very loudly. So, of course, 15 minutes later when the home team scored the commentators screamed especially loudly and directly at us "Gooooooooooooolll". In all, our second brush with fame was a little more personal than our first, even if the TV audience wasn't as big.

It was also nice to meet the commentators (who at the end of the game told us a very long and not particularly funny joke about Guatemalans working in the US). We did note that the play-by-play guy who talked very fast in an exagerrated spanish accent during the game (think most words being said in the same tone as "Goooooolllllllllll") spoke in a perfectly normal and moderately paced Spanish when not doing his announcing (which must be a real relief to his family and friends since things like "Pleeeeeeaaaassssse passsssssssss the kettttt-chuppppppp" would probably get annoying on a daily basis).

So we haven't had to start beating away the autograph seekers who know us from our television fame yet, but we are anticipating that will occur any day now that we're so famous here in the Latin America sports community....


Triada said...

I love this! How did you make that baseball shout-out happen?

Jed and Meg said...

Though I didn't tell Meg, I had sent an email to the TV station but I wasn't sure if they were going to mention it on-air or not. -Jed