Monday, January 10, 2011

Joe Cantada and the voices we grew up with

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One of our recent FTW episodes is somewhat disjointed. Richard Del Rosario, Magoo Marjon and I were supposed to discuss "famous sports catch phrases", the ones immortalized on television, the ones we still repeat up to now, during alumni games, weekend 5-on-5's and inter-barangay contests.

You know -- Noli Eala's "Susmaryosep" during highlight plays. Chino Trinidad's "It's Winning Time" to signal the last two minutes. Jude Turcuato's "Kaboom" right after three-point shots or "Book It" after open jumpshots. Or when Ed Picson illustrates his mastery of 1 billion dialects. Or Joaqui Trillo's "Wild and Wooly." Or when Sev Sarmenta lets out "And listen to this crowd roar!".

Of course what most of us still remember is Pinggoy Pengson's "Cardiac Game".

At least that was the title of the episode.

But we ended up discussing sportscasters we respected the most. Well, in truth, revered the most. And the conversation, especially one among 80's babies turned modern-day sportscasters, naturally gravitated towards Smokin' Joe Cantada.

I am disappointed at myself, really, that we forgot to mention the other greats -- Willie Hernandez and Dick Ildefonso. While I'm too young to remember Willie Hernandez, I'm old enough to know that Dick Ildefonso's voice was, still is, the envy of broadcasters.

I wish I could say some old-world term like "Bullseye!" with the same panache.

Dick was the standard-bearer during the PBA's pre-Joe Cantada years. He covered the UAAP until 1989. His coverage of the 1987 UAAP Finals between Ateneo and UE, although, as a Ateneo alumnus, he was obviously leaning towards Ateneo back in the day when there was no risk of being pilloried in internet chatrooms for doing so, is still a masterclass in voice control, command of the English language and a sure 10 out 10 on the swabe Scotch level.

I also should've mentioned the radio greats of the 80's -- DZSR legends Miss Belma Ignacio and the late-great Michael Charles Bugo.

At any rate, the bigger crime would've been to miss out on Joe Cantada. I learned English from him, as did many other youngsters who were weaned on the PBA. The biggest thrill of long, out of town PBA trips is to hear war stories about Cantada from Ed Picson and Sev Sarmenta; how Cantada and Joaqui Trillo's Ateneo smart-ass vs La Salle pogi-boy act never got old (which Jimmy Javier and Trillo naturally and effectively revived during the UAAP's Silverstar years in the 90's), how Cantada, already on the air, forgot the teams he was about to cover (he made mistakes better than anyone), how Cantada became so good at what he did.

I never expected in a million years that I, like everyone else in the sports broadcast industry, would work under the shadow of Cantada's greatness. It doesn't hurt to aspire for Cantada-esque impact even if we all know his legend will never be matched, much less overtaken. It's the right thing to do. It's what Smokin' Joe would've wanted. Sev Sarmenta (my PBA broadcasting mentor) has often told me Joe, if he was still alive, would surely, sincerely give pointers to guys like us (even if he will reluctantly help Richard and Magoo since they're La Sallites of the highest order).

Which makes me proud of the company I keep. For all the shooting-jokes I throw at Richard, he has my solid respect -- a legitimate PBA pro turned top-notch anchor possessing on-air comedic timing even Dolphy will admire. And Magoo, the stat-crazed fan who used to carry his legendary notebook of numbers around, is now a PBA anchor too - a logical reward for a true student of the game. And we all share for our reverence for the greats.

Back to Joe...

Smokin' Joe would've smoked the PBA taglish format for sure. He would've nailed it. I'm 2000% certain of it. Yet I'm not sure how Joe Cantada would've played out in today's Twitter age where everyone's fair game. Who knows if some Facebook self-made critic would've found him too eloquent, too poetic, too Atenean, too erudite, too bigotilyo, too pro-Ginebra, too anti-Ginebra, too D.O.M. or simply too damn good for a media environment which rewards TMZ for being the Jackass of journalism (don't worry I also watch TMZ especially when Tom Brady or Lamar Odom are in the program line-up). I wonder...

I'd like to believe there's a part of Joe Cantada in our every line, doesn't matter if it's said in Filipino or English. It's a commitment to honor the PBA's history. It's a commitment to deliver intelligent (and sometimes not-so-intelligent) humor in the context of basketball hehe. It's a commitment to not say too much. It's a commitment to say it the best way possible. Wherever you are in sportscasting heaven, salamat Smokin' Joe. MH

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