Foreign-born Hoosiers are becoming true blue
Spanish-language broadcasts helping to draw new fans
By Tim Evans
They might not know the difference between clipping and a
blitz, and the Statue of Liberty still represents freedom and
opportunity, rather than a football play, to many.
But members of Central Indiana's growing international
community aren't letting the fact that they didn't grow up with the
game stop them from embracing the Colts.
From Hispanics to Africans and Asians to Europeans, new
Hoosiers who grew up following sports such as soccer, cricket and
field hockey can now be found "doing the blue" on Sunday
Some of their support can be traced to outreach efforts by the
team, such as the Spanish-language broadcast of
games launched this year, but much of it comes from the cultural
"Supporting the team makes me feel a part of Indianapolis,"
said Olivia Mercado, who operates the Mexican Inn restaurant at
2639 E. Michigan St.
Mercado said Spanish-language broadcasts by
Armando Quintero on Radio Latina (WEDJ-FM 107.1) are
providing a better understanding of the game for Hispanics who
gather at the restaurant on Sundays to eat and watch the
Colts. She said they learn by listening to the radio while
watching the action on a big-screen TV.
Polls by the NFL and ESPN show football is the most popular
of the Big Three professional sports -- football, basketball and
baseball -- among Hispanics, and more than eight out of 10 Hispanic
fans say knowing and following professional football makes them
feel more a part of America.
Those findings -- plus the fact that Hispanics now represent the
largest ethnic population in the country -- have prompted the
Colts, as well as many other NFL teams, to reach out to the new residents.
Before this season, the Colts hired Quintero, who had announced Dallas
Cowboys games for 21 years, to broadcast home games in Spanish. Playoff
games have been added because of the fan interest, said Ray Compton, senior
vice president of sales and marketing for the Colts.
"We think it is something that will pay off in both the short term and long
term," Compton said. "This is something that is going to be a building process.
Doing the games in Spanish was our first test of the waters, but we feel like it's
been a good start."
Inside Gonzalez Records, 2001 W. Washington St., the walls are covered
with posters of soccer teams and scantily clad women. There is no Colts
memorabilia, but customer Raphael Lopez, 23, Terre Haute, said he and others
who have come to Indiana from Mexico are following the team.
"Futbol (soccer) is still the big thing, but I see people getting more excited
about the Colts," he said.
A few blocks to the west, at the Plaza Guerrero sportswear shop, 2614 W.
Washington St., sisters Lucy Perez and Veronica Guerrero said they quickly
sell any Colts gear they get and plan to add more items to their
"The Hispanic people are getting very excited," Guerrero said. "And they
want Colts things, like hats and shirts."
They also want game coverage in local Spanish-language newspapers, said
Ildefonso Carbajal, publisher of La Ola Latino-Americana. Pictures and stories
about the team dominate the front page of this week's edition.
"We live here now, and this is our team," he said. "I want to share that."
Carbajal admits he's never been a big football fan but says he has been
dragged into the game by his children. "My 9- and 10-year-old kids are nuts
about the Colts," he said. "We'll watch a game, and my sons will be explaining it
Didier Gondola, 37, a native of Congo, became a fan the same way.
"If it wasn't for my kids, I wouldn't be interested at all," said Gondola, a
professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who has lived in
Indiana for five years.
"I've learned to appreciate the game watching it on TV with them. Now
you can count me among the converts."
Yishung Juang, 48, a native of Taiwan who has lived in Indianapolis for 20
years, still doesn't consider himself a fan, but he has been caught up in the
"They've had several fourth-quarter comebacks this season, and that really
spices things up. I may not be able to name all of the positions or players, but
I've been getting real excited as they move into the playoffs and the whole city
gets behind the team."
But not all are preparing to paint a horseshoe on their face and don a poofy
"Sports like football and basketball are the quintessential American sports,
and I find them very difficult to get excited about," said John McCormick, 49, a
native of England who has lived in Indiana for 17 years.
Still, McCormick concedes, he probably will be watching Sunday.
"It's less about the game than identifying with the community," he said.
"If the team is doing well and the whole town is excited, you can't help but
get swept up in it."