As football season steps into overdrive and we all start hemming and hawing about our favorite college and pro teams, I called an old friend who is quite knowledgeable about sports and treated myself to a rainy afternoon sports jam session (or descarga, as we like to say in Spanish) over a delectable stogie at a tucked away cigar shop in Kendall.
The “Big O” has been a fixture on South Florida’s radio waves for over two decades.
The difference between my sports chat and the thousands of others taking place that very drizzly afternoon in South Florida is that I was conversing with none other than WQAM’s sports talk host Orlando “the big O” Alzugaray — and what a treat it was.
The “Big O” as he is affectionately called by listeners, has been a fixture on South Florida’s radio waves for over two decades. Consistently offering a local take on the Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins and Panthers, Alzugaray is as down home Miami as you can get — a homer, a fan, the kind of guy you want to tailgate with.
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Part of Alzugaray’s success in connecting with his listeners has been the fact that he feels the same pain we do when our local teams flop. “I love the home teams. I feel the pain the average fan feels, though I try to be analytical and realistic,” Alzugaray explained between puffs of his aromatic cigar. “And no matter how much I try to take a step back and be impartial,” he confided, “sometimes I too can be a ‘blind ass fan’ (a term that he has popularized on his show).”
It is precisely that “blind” passionate flare for local sports that keeps listeners like me tuning in every day.
In a market full of transplants, particularly from the Northeast, Alzugaray is refreshingly native. From his distinct musical rejoinders to references to events of Miami’s past, Alzugaray provides a rarity in South Florida media, a connection to our history — to events on and off sports fields.
“I’ve had a chance to go elsewhere,” he told me, “but Miami is where I want to be. It’s where my wife and I are raising our daughter. It’s home.”
The Big O is sometimes abrasive and challenging. However, it’s always done in the most unpretentious of ways. When you tune in to his show (weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) you’ll never hear him auditioning to get a network gig. He is as non-politically-correct as any radio talent in this market since the late, great Neil Rogers — quite refreshing in today’s cookie cutter, homogenous world of entertainment.
He is tireless when it comes to watching, breaking down and analyzing sports. This guy really does his homework.
I began my own career in media over 20 years ago covering sports on the same station alongside the Big O and what impressed me about him then is still true about him today: He is tireless when it comes to watching, breaking down and analyzing sports. This guy really does his homework.
An example of this is his yearly trip to the college football Senior Bowl—an all-star game for college seniors, where pro scouts gather to evaluate talent. Alzugaray has been a mainstay at this bowl game in Mobile, Ala., and especially the week of practice leading up to the game for over 15 years — for most of those, he has paid his own way
“Actually, cigars have gone a long way for me in building relationships with lots of NFL scouts and general managers,” Alzugaray confided. “I stock up on stogies when I go up to Mobile and spend the week having after-hour cigars with many decision makers in the NFL. That’s how I’ve built some great relationships over the years. “
That is a testament to his work ethic and his desire to learn more about the game he talks about on the air, and the deep respect he has for the listeners who are intrigued by the inside information that the Big O gathers and shares with them on the air — or while enjoying a good cigar.