The Portuguese voice of the Patriots to retire soon!
Editor’s note: Gil Santos, a Portuguese-American broadcaster was interviewed by our sister newspaper, The Brockton Enterprise on his long career. We thought it was important to share this story as he has delivered great pride to the community as the “Portuguese voice of the Patriots.”
RAYNHAM —Broadcast legend Gil Santos called his 744th New England Patriots game Sunday.
The Raynham resident has called nearly 2,000 sporting events in all and traveled 2.5 million miles since 1971. He is retiring after this season.
The 74-year-old, a member of six broadcasting Halls of Fame, shared with The Enterprise some of his memories from more than three decades of professional sports in New England.
How did you get your start?
First game I did was New Bedford High against Fairhaven High – I was 19. … I went through all these preparations, made up a board with each player’s information. Just before the game it starts to rain and of course I’m outside and the whole thing I did is just awash in red and blue ink, so I throw (my engineer) a quarter and I said, ‘buy me a program.’ And that’s how I called the game, using the program.
How do you prepare for a broadcast?
I have the roster set up so it’s color coded, quarterbacks in red, running backs in blue, receivers in green, kickers in purple and on the other side all defensive players in black so I can immediately find who I’m looking for numerically… It takes about four hours of preparation for every hour of play-by-play. And the funny part of it is that it takes me, say 12 hours, to get all my information down the way I want it and I may use it 2 percent of the time.
Did you always want to do football games?
Initially, I wanted to be a play-by-play announcer when I was about 10 years old, and I wanted to do baseball. My first big break into professional sports was the Patriots and … I realized how much I enjoyed doing football and then I did the Celtics for about 10 years and how much I enjoyed doing basketball. I got a call once to sit in for Sean McDonough on Red Sox baseball. I did about two or three games… I hated it. It was boring. I thought the damn game would never end.
Who is your favorite player to watch?
(Tom) Brady, definitely. The next guy I enjoyed watching as much as Brady, was (Larry) Bird when I did the Celtics from 1980-1990. Bird, at that point in time, was the best player I ever broadcast for. Now it’s Brady and Bird. And then everybody else is in third place.
What were you thinking when Drew Bledsoe was injured during the 2001 season and Brady came in to take his place?
I thought we were destined for a horrible season. I liked what I had seen of Brady the year before in the exhibition games and in training camp and I thought this kid might be pretty good down the road. I certainly didn’t expect him to come in and take charge as he did. Then he comes out and just toasts the (Indianapolis) Colts in Foxboro and then it just got better and better.
What are your favorite Patriots games you’ve called?
The first Patriots Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXXVI, is number one. And then when they beat Oakland in the snow game here in Foxboro. The next two Super Bowl wins, 2003 and 2004, are three and four.
I felt very confident that we were going to win that Super Bowl (in 2001). I had no doubt in my mind Brady would bring them down the field and and I had no doubt that Adam (Vinatieri) would hit the field goal. It was just karma. … I know there are guys that do that – write down little phrases (in case the team wins) – but that was never my way of doing it. You call the nuts and bolts of the play and then when it’s over you either dissect it or let your emotions carry you, and that’s exactly what I did.
I looked up the clock and I saw the last second tick off and I thought, ‘Oh, my God. We just won the bloody Super Bowl. Who in the hell would have given us a prayer.’
What did you think of the infamous “tuck rule” call in the 2001 AFC game against the Oakland Raiders?
I watched the replay and said (to co-announcer Gino Cappelletti), ‘Gino, he may call this an incompleted pass.’ And he said, ‘Really?’ … And then he (the referee) calls it, ‘Arm was going forward, it’s an incomplete pass.’ It was great. … To me, it was obvious that his arm was going forward and I thought if its obvious to me it’s got to be obvious to the referee. … I was on a radio show once out in Oakland-San Francisco and they’re complaining about it, and I said it was a pass. The arm was going forward. I said, ‘Let me tell you something, I did the Patriots (playoff) game in 1976 when your quarterback, Stabler, threw an incomplete pass on fourth down and we were going to take over the ball and run the clock out and win the game and a phantom roughing the passer call came on “Sugarbear” Hamiliton. So what goes around comes around.
How does it feel to be inducted into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame?
That was shocking. I was absolutely stunned. I started to cry… It’s an embarrassment of riches is what it is.
Why did you decide to retire?
I have to use the binoculars every play so I can see who’s got the ball and what they’re doing with it but it’s not as easy as it once was. I’m having more difficulty zeroing in and finding those numbers that I need to know in order to do the job right… And all of my take-offs have eventually been followed by landings so I don’t want to press my luck. This isn’t a job. It’s a privilege… It’s been fun.
What do you think of the team’s chances this postseason?
I think they’re good enough to win the Super Bowl. I don’t think there is a team that they would have to play … that they can’t beat. They just have to get lucky. You not only have to be good, you’ve got to be lucky.
Erin Shannon may be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @ErinEnterprise.