Note: Interviews with Jaime Moreno and Luis Moreno Jr. were conducted separately. Parts of the questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
"Bailale! Bailale! Bailale!"
That’s the Spanish word for "dance" and Jaime Moreno and Luis Moreno Jr. have been shouting it frequently this season as the Carolina Panthers led the NFL in scoring with 31.3 points per game (59 touchdowns).
Now in their sixth season broadcasting Panthers games in Spanish, Jaime (play-by-play), 54, and his nephew Luis (color analyst), 37, have gained a following far beyond the major North and South Carolina cities, thanks in large part to several exuberant touchdown call videos that have gone viral (and thanks to online streaming).
The Morenos have infused a soccer-style, celebrate-everything-enthusiasm into their broadcasts, resulting in euphoric touchdown celebrations capable of lifting a non-Panthers fan out of his La-Z-Boy.
Before the Morenos brought their show to Levi’s Stadium for Super Bowl 50, The Buzzer’s Brett Smiley chatted with them about their broadcasting style, nicknames, Latino interest in American football, dinosaurs and more.
FOXSports.com: Jaime, between you and Luis, it seems that you’re the louder one. How do you get yourself so fired up before a broadcast?
Jaime Moreno: You know I haven’t been able to answer myself that question. [Laughs]. I get really motivated for the sport, honestly, I love the sport and played it for 15 years. I couldn’t continue playing because I got hurt but just to walk into an organization like the Carolina Panthers really inspires you. When you’re in the booth broadcasting you have to be pumped up with the energy to make sure that you bring the listeners to the stadium through your broadcast. That’s the way I feel it.
FS: Has the increased attention made you guys more conscious of what you’re saying during recent games?
Luis Moreno Jr.: We’ve been doing this six years — it’s just a lot of people weren’t aware of our existence. But we’ve been doing this since John Fox’s last year, when the team went 2-14. We really had to produce broadcasts for 60 minutes and especially the second half when they were struggling in many games to keep the audience tuned in. Our formula has been the same — whatever comes to Jaime’s mind at that moment, however he’s feeling, that’s what he’s going to say. In my case I have a bit of an easier job, I’m just trying to analyze and explain to you what’s happening. That helps us keep a balance of fun and excitement but also seriousness.
FS: Have you gotten to know Cam Newton over the past six-plus years?
JM: When Cam came into the league in 2011, the NFL had the (lockout) that year, we were at Wofford University for camp and the first person we saw in the dining hall was Cam. And he was coming from Auburn and we asked him to sit with us and we told him "This is who we are, we do the Spanish radio." And he was very excited about it. One thing I wanted him to understand was that most of our listeners do not speak English, so to say his name during the games in English would be good but for those listeners who don’t speak English I said, "We have to create a nickname for you, are you OK with that?" He said, "Of course I am, I don’t have a problem with that." So we came to an agreement that his name would be "’El Dinosaurio" — the Dinosaur.
LM: He first suggested "Ace Boogie" which doesn’t work in Spanish, so we ended up with Dinosaur which was given to him at Auburn because he’s unique and they don’t make ’em like him anymore. And I also think he’s like a T-Rex because he’s so hard to bring down, so there’s many reasons for El Dinosaurio.
FS: Speaking of nicknames, can you give us a Spanish nickname for Von Miller and Peyton Manning?
JM: For Von Miller: "El Cazador." That means "The Hunter." Because he’s always hunting you, wherever you go, he just follows you and follows you and nothing will stop him. El Cazador. For Peyton Manning: El Veterano. The Veteran. Because he has so much experience.
FS: Ron Rivera (whose mother is of Mexican heritage and father is Puerto Rican) has said that his family back home listens to your broadcast. Have you gotten any feedback from him?
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
JM: Yes, Rivera takes our calls and plays them on Saturday night for the motivational meetings they have the night before games. And Ryan Kalil (Panthers center) tells me, "Jaime, as soon as your calls come on in the room, the whole room gets excited. We’re ready to play a game." And talking to Rivera, he thinks it’s funny that in Puerto Rico, every Sunday they get together and say it’s time to listen to the game and most of them don’t speak English. So for them to listen in their language about their own blood, how the team is doing for Ron Rivera, he said it was a blessing coming to this team and having the Spanish radio so they finally can connect to us and listen every Sunday.
FS: How much do you think American football and the NFL is growing in popularity in Latino communities? Is there more interest now in watching and listening, participating, both?
JM: Big. Big. I think the NFL didn’t realize how big and how fast they were growing in the Latino community. And I tell you — first of all, the Latino community in the United States is growing tremendously and American Football for them is one of the passions.
LM: The last statistics I saw, 23 million people in Mexico City or Mexico follow the NFL — more than in Canada, which has the CFL, and more than any country in the world other than the United States. Right behind them is Brazil with 19 million fans. So that’s more than 40 million people who don’t speak English, some speak Portuguese, some speak Spanish. There’s been huge exposure and growth — not just to the NFL but the NCAA too, there’s been much more exposure thanks to technology and different TV networks that are international that are able to bring the game to different audiences.
FS: Luis, what’s it like working with your uncle?
LM: It’s great. You brought up something I really hadn’t thought about. He’s the one who introduced my brother and I to American football in the late ’80s because he played in Mexico. And when we moved to the United States he got married and my cousin, his son, we used to play a lot of "FIFA" and "Madden" and we used to broadcast the games when we were playing them — in a sarcastic way, talking junk to each other while playing. We established a chemistry long before these past six years, we just didn’t realize that. He’s like my second father and a really good friend of mine. Even though we’re family, you have to have chemistry and respect and we have both.
FS: This Panthers team has had a lot of doubters this season. That’s about ended since they crushed Seattle and Arizona and now they’re 5.5-point favorites over the Broncos. At what point did you think this team might be Super Bowl caliber?
LM: I believed it before Kelvin Benjamin got hurt. Despite his injury I knew that this team would be a contender and probably win the division. I think once they went to Seattle after the bye in Week 6 — that 80-yard drive concluding with that touchdown pass to Greg Olsen, it was the first time they’d beaten Seattle in Seattle in a long time. I think that was the turning point.
FS: Denver’s defense has carried its team all season. How do you think the Panthers offense stacks up against that unit on Sunday?
LM: I think the Panthers know their deficiencies and their capabilities. They’ve been able to protect Cam throughout the year, better than most teams have protected their quarterbacks. I think the way David Gettleman has built this team, the way Rivera has coached this team and the way that the locker room and the players have come together as a family and built chemistry and harmony. I think as long as they execute the way they did against Arizona and Seattle they’ll be fine, as long as Cam continues to play the way he has, and as long as the defensive line continues to bring pressure, especially up the middle against Peyton who lacks mobility. He’s legendary but just not the same guy he was even a few years ago.
FS: How often do you guys get recognized out in public?
Luis and Jaime Moreno.
JM: Everywhere. [Laughs.] We’ve gotten very popular now because something special is happening to this whole broadcast team, not just me. We’ve been working together for seven years and we had been looking for sponsors to keep this project alive and now we have sponsors looking for us! When I get to the streets or I’m with other media, people will say "bailale! bailale!" When are you going to say ‘bailale‘?" So every time we have a touchdown now I will put that in there.