"People think Hispanics only love soccer," says a laughing, smiling Rafael Hernandez-Brito, by way of introducing his career.
Hernandez-Brito, also known affectionately as Rafa El Alcalde — "The Mayor" in English, a name he received from a colleague — has been the Spanish voice of every professional sport under the sun and stadium lights: soccer, boxing, mixed-martial arts, bowling, golf, hockey, football, basketball. "From the beginning I didn't want to marry myself to one sport," he says. "I'll call any game, in any language."
Before he became the Spanish voice of the Cavaliers two years ago, El Alcalde covered the '05 World Series when the White Sox defeated the Astros. He covered the Super Bowl in 2008 when Eli Manning and the Giants ended Tom Brady and the Patriots' perfect season. He has covered the last five World Cups. This year he covered the Cavaliers' historic win over an equally historic Warriors team in the Finals.
"If you go to the movies and watch the Cavaliers' 2015/2016 season and you see the ending, you'll come out and say, 'C'mon. Did that really happen?'"
Only seven NBA teams bring their Spanish-speaking sportscasters on road trips: the Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs, Heat, Magic, Lakers (TV only), and, of course, the Cavaliers. Once he came to Cleveland, Brito became the first and only Spanish-language sportscaster to cover the finals of the holy trinity of professional sports: the MLB, the NFL and the NBA.
His fascinating path to the microphone has been equal parts serendipity, talent, and deviation from the script. "At first, I wanted to build jet engines," he says with a shrug. "Don't ask me why."
He received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Boston University, but, because of his status as a permanent resident, his options were limited. He'd always been a sports fan and, further, always an active consumer and student of how games were broadcast. So, Brito went back to school for broadcasting. His first announcing job came for the St. John's University's men's basketball the day of graduation. A month into his first gig, by what he says was pure luck, Brito found himself at a black tie dinner sitting and chatting with Muhammad Ali. After sports casting for St. John's, the New Jersey Nets, and covering boxing matches in Las Vegas in Spanish, he and a colleague joined a broadcasting company that eventually merged with Univision. He spent 12 years with the company acting as its director of sports and Spanish voice of the NFL for the majority of his tenure.
Since then, El Alcalde's story mirrors that of Lebron James. Both of their paths led them far from home to Miami, then to Cleveland at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season. For both men, the past two years have come to define their careers. "It is the biggest moment of my 20-year broadcasting career, not only because of what it means personally but also because of what it means to all Cavs fans in Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and everywhere," he says.
Uncharacteristically lowering his voice for a second, Brito says, "I ran into someone who had gone to the cemetery the day before the parade to celebrate with his father, because his father passed away and never got a chance to see the Cavaliers win a championship. Cleveland has a champion now."
Yes, we certainly do.