Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Suburban Man: Welcome to broadcasting, kid

By Rick Kaempfer

About three weeks ago I received a phone call from a friend of mine with an interesting proposition. My friend’s mother had just been filmed for an upcoming ESPN special about the Cubs. The show (and an accompanying article in ESPN Magazine) was to feature Cubs fans from every decade of their losing century. My friend’s mother was chosen to be the representative for Cubs fans in their 90s.

While they were filming her, one of the writers of the project mentioned that they were having a difficult time finding a kid under ten years old who was articulate, comfortable in front of the camera, and devoted to the Cubs. My friend immediately thought of my son, Sean, who is all of those things. Would he be interested in representing Cubs fans under ten?

I asked Sean, and he raised his hands in the air. He screamed “YEAH!!!”

That got the ball rolling. The writer of the piece called me up and interviewed me about Sean. Was he really a die-hard Cubs fan? I asked Sean to name some of the players, and he effortlessly named half the team off the top of his head.

“But I can only do three of their batting stances,” Sean confessed.

“I think we have our boy,” the writer said.

He sent me the script that all of the fans were going to recite. The plan was to cut from one fan to another in a montage. After each fan read the script, they were going to be interviewed about their love of the team, their feelings about the hundred years since the last championship, and their chances for this year.

Sean made me practice the script with him several times a day for the next week. He had it down pat. He looked right at the camera, he smiled, and he pronounced everything perfectly. We did a few practice interviews, and Sean was charming, cute, enthusiastic and hilarious.

The writer called me to set up a filming time and location. They had it down to two choices: the local baseball field, or our backyard “field” where Sean plays every day. He said he would call me up the next day and make the final arrangements.

Sean was totally excited, and I must admit, so was I. I knew the names of the other people chosen to represent the other decades, and just being associated with this group would be something Sean would cherish for the rest of his life (once he realized who these people were–many of them were nationally known celebrities).

Then I got the call.

“Hate to be the bearer of bad news,” the writer told me, “but we found out yesterday that there’s a seven year old kid named Wrigley Field–and we’re going with him instead. Really sorry about that.”

I was disappointed, but mainly because I knew this news would crush Sean. I thought about telling him the lessons I learned during my twenty year broadcasting career, but I knew he wouldn’t understand any of that. This was just pure disappointment, and it couldn’t be dressed up as anything else or explained away with detached broadcasting industry logic.

I approached the subject with him as gingerly as possible. As I began to tell him that he wasn’t going to be used in the special after all, his eyes welled up. “But Dad, I knew the words. I knew the players…”

“I know, buddy,” I said as I comforted him with a hug, “but they found another boy that they want to use instead. They only picked him because his name is Wrigley Field.”

He looked up at me. “That’s his name?”


He broke into a big grin. “That’s the coolest name ever.”

And just like that (snap), he was over it. It must be great to be 5.

(Postscript: The show aired on Sunday, and just for the record, little Wrigley Field did a very nice job.)