By Nancy Price
Every weekday, thousands of Hoosiers in central Indiana begin their mornings waking up with a cup of coffee and watching broadcast journalist Carlos Diaz on WTHR-TV. Diaz, a Greenwood native, has already achieved an envious lifetime of success.
When Diaz was just 26, he already snagged a broadcaster’s dream job at ESPN. “Whereas most people in their middle 50s will have a midlife crisis and they want to go buy a sports car, and they want to go on vacation, and how they want to live the biggest life they can. That was me at 26. I’m like, ‘I work for ESPN and now I want to travel the world and I want to interview everyone I can.’ There was nothing that I felt that I could not do. Then you go, ‘OK – what’s next?’ It was the NBA, and then Extra and then CNN, and you turn around and 20 years have gone by and you’ve been on national TV for 20 years and you go, ‘Wow!’ And you have all these experiences.
“None of that matters if you don’t have family. If you don’t have someone to share your happiness with, then is it even real? Even when I was at the biggest sporting events, on the red carpet, the Oscars, traveling the globe, interviewing the most interesting people in the world, I was completely unhappy because I was alone.”
When Diaz was working for Extra, he had a live morning show on radio stations all across the U.S., including Tampa, Fla. He traveled to Tampa to introduce stage acts at a concert festival. Olga, a promotions manager for the local Florida station, booked travel arrangements for Diaz. When Diaz met Olga, “it was like a bolt of lightning,” he said. “Like, I just met my wife and I don’t know it yet.”
A BUDDING ROMANCE OVER ‘LINNER’
However, Diaz and Olga were in other relationships at the time, and three years passed before they connected again. This time, both were single, and Diaz invited her to breakfast on a Sunday. “She said, ‘Does that typically work on women, that line, breakfast?’ And I go, ‘Yes, it does.’ She’s like, ‘No, tomorrow’s Sunday. I go to church on Sunday.’ And I go, ‘How about lunch?’ and she said, ‘It’s a Catholic church. I’ll still be there.’ And then I said, ‘How about dinner?’ And she said, ‘I think you’re getting ahead of yourself.’ And I said, ‘How about linner (an afternoon meal between lunch and dinner)?’”
Olga and Diaz maintained a long-distance relationship before getting married and moved back to Greenwood in 2016. “When I wanted to start a family, I wanted to start a family in the best place possible. And that is Indiana,” Diaz said. “Hoosier hospitality is a real tangible thing. I have a very dear friend here in Greenwood and she actually said to me, ‘Carlos, people are people. And people are the same all over the world.’ And I looked at her and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve been all over the world and I disagree. There is just a level of kindness and generosity in Indiana that does not exist in everyone in other parts of the world.’”
IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY
Today, Olga and Diaz are parents of a son, Dacio, 4, and daughter, Deyla, 2 ½. “He’s a devoted father,” Olga said of Diaz. “Everything he does, it’s for his family. Just like any other parent, he wants a better life for his kids than he had. Every day when he comes home, it’s like, ‘Daddy’s home!’ Dacio plays golf with his daddy. Here we are watching every Disney princess movie. He hates waiting in line but he waits in line so his little girl can meet a Disney princess. He’ll drop everything when it comes to the kids.”
As a father, Diaz said he encourages his kids to express themselves and voice their opinions. “I will allow a little talkback. I will allow a little rebellion. Because I don’t want to stifle their voices even at a young age,” he said. “The message that I want to say to my kids, is, ‘We are going to give you rules and guidelines. And as long as you work within those guidelines, I want you to be whatever person you want to be, and I want you to express yourself in whatever way you want to express yourself within the guidelines that we set.’”
GETTING TO KNOW CARLOS DIAZ:
You have a father from Cuba and a mother who’s a native Hoosier. How do their backgrounds define who you are today?
“Nothing more defines me than having two parents from polar opposite ends of the world. That’s been the tug and pull of my entire life, having a father, who had to flee communism in Cuba during one of the most volatile times in recent history. And then having a mom who has Midwestern values yet is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Anyone who says to me, ‘Oh, you’re not a real minority,’ I would ask them, ‘Have you ever been called a spic? Have you ever been called a wetback? Have you ever been called a beaner?’ When those things occur, it’s somebody trying to tell you you’re different. The thing that I would change is that we need to be allowed to be proud of our heritage. We need to be allowed to say, “Yes, I speak Spanish, yes, my parents are from different countries, my wife was born in a different country. I don’t want to tell my kids to act more white.”
In September of 2011, you were a sports reporter. You were assigned to cover your first news story at the World Trade Center site just days after the Sept 11 attacks. How did this experience change your life?
“I asked my camera guy, ‘What’s the one thing that I need to prepare myself for?’ And he looked right at me, and I’ll never forget this, it was like in slow motion, he said, ‘The smell. You are going to smell death.’ There was bodies everywhere. You could smell death. It reeked. And that’s the one thing you don’t get from seeing the coverage. And every time I see the footage from 9/11, that smell hits me. It’s so surreal, it’s so out there that if you take just one split second to think about the gravity of the situation, you’re completely toast. You have to remember the job that you are there to do and you just have to turn it off. You have to turn your emotions off so you can get through the day. And all of the emotions I held in came out that night when I got up to my apartment.”
As a correspondent on Extra, you covered celebrities on the red carpet. What was an interview you’ll never forget?
“Paul McCartney. And the funny thing is, they said, ‘He’s not taking any questions. He’s just going to walk the red carpet, and oh, there’s no way he’s going to walk past me without me asking him some questions. So, I stepped out in front of him and asked him a question, and his publicist gave me a look like she wanted me off the earth. And he was awesome, and he answered my question and then I asked a follow up and he answered that one and as I was asking my third follow up, he goes, ‘Gotta go!’ (while lightly jabbing my kidneys). So I can honestly say I’ve been punched in the stomach by Paul McCartney (laughs).”