By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
André José Adler is popularly known as the ambassador of American Football in Brazil. Former ESPN announcer of NFL games, Adler is one of the country’s biggest enthusiasts, and has been a key figure in its growing popularity in Brazil.
Adler is one of the founders of Torneio Touchdown – Brazil’s first full pads national competition – which kicked off on August 9 with a 21-8 victory by the Curitiba Brown Spiders against Joinville Gladiators. In this first of a two-part interview, he spoke to The Gringo Times about his passion for the oval-shaped ball, his football website Redzone List and the sport’s challenges in Brazil.
How did you first get interested in football? What do you like the most about the sport?
I never thought I would have any professional involvement with sports. When I arrived in the US, I had experience in TV, film, theater and advertising as an actor, writer, director, producer.
I studied theater, worked as a tour guide, subtitled movies, acted, directed, recorded books in Portuguese, was a Corporate Development Officer, owned the studio Acting Techniques for Business Performance and so much more. Yet nothing related to sports until ESPN International put together a cast to broadcast in Portuguese to Brazil.
I started as the “golf guy” until the NFL´s 1992 mid-season when my boss told me I´d need to learn football play-by-play, luring me with a trip to the Super Bowl. You have to do what you have to do, so since then I have always been learning about the sport.
What I like most about football is that it allows the widest variety of physical types. From big guys to skinny guys, from athletes who have great speed to those who can stop them, it´s the most democratic sport. All kids can play together.
In 1998 you created Redzone List, arguably the best resource for discussing US Football in Portuguese online. Where did the idea came from?
An inspired moment for sure. I was creating a list for my buddies from #Brasil-USA, an IRC chat channel, and thought it would be a great opportunity for Brazilian fans to network.
People in Brazil didn’t have anybody to chat with about NFL. We then opened the focus for those who wanted to create teams in Brazil. To promote that list on air and other football endeavors in Brazil I had the support of Roberto Figueroa, and of the journalist Marco Alfaro, then my partners broadcasting NFL on ESPN.
The Brazilian scene is “up and coming”. What are its biggest challenges? Compared to ten years ago, what has changed?
Ten years ago there was the Carioca Bowl tournament on the beaches in Rio, and flag football was beginning to take shape in São Paulo. Now there are people playing from Amazonas to Rio Grande do Sul. Tackle and full pads once a dream are now a reality.
There are several hurdles on the way to growth. I would have to mention the cost and difficulties in getting helmets, shoulder pads et al. The equipment is almost a birthright for any American middle-class kid, but in Brazil it is heavily taxed and expensive.
Help would be welcome with used gear from high schools and colleges. Every event is organized with little to no sponsorship. The players not only have to pay to play, but pay to make these events happen. Sponsorship by open minded companies would be welcome. Lastly, almost everyone learns about football from watching games on TV. American expats are welcome to participate, be it with knowledge in coaching and refereeing, or even as players on Brazilian teams.