Tuning in with Eagles en Español stars Rickie Ricardo and María Berral
It's never been a better time to be an Eagles fan – or a bilingual broadcaster.
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Rickie Ricardo and María "Macu" Berral, teammates for the Eagles en Español Spanish-language broadcast on SportsRadio 94WIP, took a timeout from Super Bowl preparations in Minneapolis, Minnesota to speak to AL DÍA on Friday. They talked bilingualism in media, the international appeal of football, highlights from this season— and what we can expect from the Eagles this Sunday.
Though their effortless teamwork for the Eagles broadcast is now as tight as the best-thrown spiral, Ricardo and Berral took very different paths to end up behind the microphone.
Ricardo was only 19 when he started out in broadcasting at a top-rated, New York English-language station in 1981 (where he got the DJ nickname he still goes by). After years in Spanish and bilingual music broadcast, he ultimately transitioned to sports in 2005 when he started announcing for the Florida Marlins baseball team, which then led to doing the Spanish-language broadcast for the Philadelphia Phillies and his current role at Eagles en Español.
Berral's route was a little more circuitous. A graduate of law school, Berral credits her program's oral communications class with teaching her how to debate, convince audiences, and gain audiences — all skills which, Berral said, “come together with what we do on the radio.”
“We try to get the audience to trust and we’re able to gain their trust,” she said.
The two met when broadcasting an event together four years ago, and they haven’t stopped talking since.
“We hit it off. We couldn’t stop talking. Communication is not a problem for us,” Berral said, laughing.
Soon after their first meeting, Ricardo offered Berral the opportunity to work with him on the Eagles broadcast. Berral, who is originally from Spain, said that even though she didn’t know much about American football at the time, she was happy to accept Ricardo’s offer to work with him and the rest of the Eagles en Español team.
“I always liked to explore, and learn new things. So I thought it would be a great opportunity. Learning from someone like Rickie is absolutely the best class, the best school I could ask for,” Berral said.
For Berral, though, gaining respect as an Hispanic woman in NFL broadcasting has not been without its challenges.
Berral — now as much of a football expert as any of the NFL beat writers she sometimes wins against for Pick of the Week segments on SportsRadio 94WIP — said that when people first meet her, they are often surprised by her NFL knowledge.
“People will say, ‘You’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, and you know about football?’” Berral said. “I believe that it’s important that society has to understand there’s that interest for both cultures.”
“I believe just being a woman - Hispanic or not - we have to prove ourselves, especially in sports, more than men,” she added.
Now, Berral said she is respected by fans and players alike, which she attributes in large part to her genuine love of the sport.
“The truth is I do enjoy football. You can see my passion,” Berral said.
“When I start talking about football, my hands go all over the place,” she added with a laugh.
Vamos Eagles!!!! Campeones de la NFC!!!!! Almost game time!!pic.twitter.com/CU2BacWP8W— Macu (@MacuBerral) January 21, 2018
Ricardo said that for all Spanish speakers in Philadelphia, no matter how much English they know or if they’ve followed the NFL before, the Eagles are a point of interest.
“In Philadelphia, the Eagles are part of an overall culture and overall way of life, and you kind of realize that quickly,” Ricardo said.
But balancing the diverse preferences and backgrounds of Spanish speakers is a constant consideration for the Eagles en Español team.
“Bilingual media is tricky because you want to appeal to a younger audience, or an audience that has gone out of their way to learn English,” Ricardo said, “but at the same time I don’t want to lose the strictly Spanish speaker.”
“It’s a thin line and we’ve kind of conquered that,” Ricardo said, adding that he tends to mix in more English words, or “Spanglish,” in his broadcasting, while Berral uses traditional Spanish.
And it goes both ways. Ricardo said that even English-speaking audiences can enjoy the Spanish-language broadcast because it is “so fun and energetic.”
“There are English-speaking listeners who will say, ‘We don’t understand what you’re saying, but we love it,’” Ricardo said.
Case in point: Ricardo’s “Sí señor” call of Eagles rookie Jake Elliot’s 61-yard, game-winning field goal against the New York Giants in September. The call, which Ricardo and Berral both named as one of their favorite moments of the season, had its own “Despacito” moment of crossover fame, as it went viral across the country.
Even Jake Elliot himself, said Ricardo, has embraced the call's fame, recently greeting Ricardo in the hallway with a smile and a “Sí señor.”
Ricardo said that though ten years ago, no one had heard of the NFL outside of Mexico, there are now Eagles Chile, Eagles Argentina, and other groups in countries around the world that follow American football.
The Eagles, in particular, added Ricardo, have had an appeal in Spanish-speaking countries due to the easy translation of the name, as many Hispanic professional sports teams are called “águilas,” or eagles.
“We’re kind of the flag bearers for franchises in the Northeast,” Ricardo said, noting that Eagles en Español came before even the NFL teams in New York had regular Spanish broadcasts.
For Berral, her international broadcasting work — which includes doing Eagles previews for Telemundo 62 and game previews for NFL Mexico — allows her to be an ambassador for a sport that is quickly growing in importance around the world.
“I believe that by being Hispanic and in football and being bilingual, I’m bringing more interest to American football,” Berral said.
Both noted that by simply having a Spanish-language broadcast, the Eagles have generated worldwide attention.
“The fact that the Eagles have gotten to this level is also an opportunity for us to shine even brighter,” Ricardo said.
La cabina de los Eagles en Español Wawa!! pic.twitter.com/fXjNWqIh15— Macu (@MacuBerral) January 22, 2018
Ricardo and Berral are hopeful for the outcome of Sunday’s game.
“If we get anywhere near the Nick Foles that we got that night against Minnesota,” the team has a chance of scoring high and winning, Ricardo said.
Berral, who has studied the Eagles’ defense, said it all comes down to putting the lid on Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense.
“The Eagles have a better team. The Patriots have Tom Brady. If they stop Tom Brady, put pressure on him — that’s key,” said Berral, adding that that is a feat “easier said than done.”
Both said that despite the chilly reception awaiting the flood of Eagles fans going to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl (the hometown Vikings fans are still sore after losing to the Eagles in the NFC Championship game), inside U.S. Bank Stadium at kickoff time on Sunday, a sea of green should make Philadelphia feel right at home.
“You couldn’t ask for any better support than the Eagles have,” Berral said.
“I’ve never seen people support their team the way people are supporting the Eagles,” she added. “It’s going to help.”