Calling the Game in Navajo

ICTMN Staff
1/19/11

Sports Illustrated reported on sports only Navajo broadcaster, Harrison Dehiya.   For the past 14-years, Dehiya has been calling games in his native Navajo, which requires him to figure out exactly how to say, bemoan a bad call by an official (called "striped men" in Navajo) in his native tongue, to a 1,000-watt radius of his Navajo Nation along the New Mexico and Arizona border.  Recently, Dehiya called the 67th annual Gallup Invitational Basketball Tournament in Gallup, New Mexico on Gallup's KGAK radio station.

This began for Dehiya as a teen, when he used to listen to the New Mexico Lobos basketball games being called by Mike Roberts.  Dehiya decided to see if the games could be called in Navajo, and ended up splitting airtime on a radio station with a broadcaster calling the play-by-play in English while Dehiya worked hard to put those common basketball terms like dunk, steal, and rebound into his own language.  Needless to say, he figured it out, and his popularity soared.

As the New York Times reported a few years ago, Dehiya did local football and basketball games on KGAK starting around 1996, and began receiving a lot of good feedback from Navajo elders.  Eventually his broadcasts drew enough listeners that KYVA, a local oldies station, started its own Navajo sportcasts.

As Dehiya told SI, calling games in Navajo requires a verbal dexterity that rivals the ambidextrous athletes whose exploits he describes. "What you need only one word to say in English, you need a sentence in Navajo."

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