Monday, October 27, 2008

5 Questions With Sarah Spain

After sending me an email to check out her video proclaiming her intention to reverse the Cubs curse, I just had to know more about Sarah Spain. Her time in the spotlight starts with an idea of how to get tickets to see the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl a few years back. She was a great sport and let me interrogate her for today’s five questions:

1. Alright, I love my Los Angeles Lakers but I would have never in a million years imagined putting myself up on eBay as a "date" to try and get tickets to the Finals. Was your decision really a move to get to see your Chicago Bears or just a clever scheme cooked up for exposure ('cause it sure worked if it was)? What did it really feel like to put that listing up?

While few people believe me, I can honestly say that I had no idea what I was setting into motion when I put the e-Bay ad up. About 5 minutes after the Bears beat the Saints, I went online and bought a flight to Miami--I figured I could get tickets, lodging, etc. with my friends who had agreed to head down to the game if the Bears made it. Unfortunately, they all bailed. I was on my own and needed to find a way to either raise the $4,000 (or more) for a ticket or win one somehow. After seeing "Screech" make a website to have fans help pay off his mortgage, I thought maybe I could make a "help me go to the Super Bowl" website and try to get people to donate a dollar each or something. Unfortunately, I didn't know html, nor did I know how to promote a site like than in the span of 3 or 4 days. So I was at work a few days later talking to my boss at Fox Sports about how much I wanted to go the game and I mentioned the website idea. He said "Why don't you just go on e-Bay instead?" I'd never used e-Bay and I thought maybe I could just tell a couple local radio stations about it and see if they'd give me a ticket through a contest or something. I put the ad up at 11pm and the next morning I had over 500 emails in my inbox. That's when I realized that I'd gotten myself into something way bigger than I thought. If you look at the wording I made it clear that I was NOT an escort--that it was just a "date" and nothing more. I told people I didn't want to be bought--so they shouldn't "bid"--I had no "buy it now" price so no one could claim to have won, and the day the auction ended was after the game. Clearly I didn't intend to actually go to the game with a stranger. While some people thought I truly wanted to be "bought" by someone or that I thought I somehow deserved to have someone PAY to take me to the game, the truth was, I was just hoping some company with a box would have an extra unclaimed ticket or, like I said, that the e-Bay stunt would just lead to a radio station giving me a ticket or something.

2. Have you always been a sports fan or is this your "shtick" since you're a tall, athletic woman? What sports have you played in your lifetime, organized or otherwise? Do you still participate at all? What are your favorite sports/fitness activities to engage in?

I've always been a huge sports fan. Growing up in the Chicago area during the Jordan era, it was hard not to be. I still have the ESPN 18-hour Jordan marathon on VHS, along with every MJ video, book, commercial, t-shirt--even MJ candy. To say that I'm a HUGE Jordan fan is the understatement of the year. As for the Bears--I was only 5 when the '85 Bears won it all, so for my whole life the city has been looking back on one of the greatest teams ever--one that I was too young to enjoy rooting for. The Cubs just recently broke my heart....again. I'll leave it at that. It's too painful to discuss right now. My love of sports was a direct result of my involvement in them personally. I played USTA tennis starting at a very young age, did gymnastics 'til my parents realized I was gonna be a giant, and rode horses up until high school. I did field hockey, basketball and track & field in high school and I was All-State in field hockey and track and recruited for all three sports in college. I ended up doing Division 1 track (heptathlon) at Cornell and was the captain of our 2-time Ivy-League Championship-winning team. I still LOVE to play any sport--softball, kickball, basketball, volleyball, flag football. I will literally play any sport or try anything athletic. I've just moved back to Chicago, so I'm particularly excited to get into the Chicago Sport & Social Clubs--a huge network of sports leagues and events. So yeah, I'm the real deal. I think it's unfortunate that women have to "explain" their interest in sports and that people think it's a "shtick" or a way to impress men or a million other things I've heard in my lifetime. I can't count how many times I told men I was an associate producer at Fox Sports only to have them ask "Oh, do you like sports?" Or when I told a guy a few weeks ago that I was a huge Cubs fan and he said "Oh yeah? Name four people on the team." Those are just questions a man would never get. True, there are more male sports fans than female, but that doesn't diminish the passion those select women have for their teams. There are plenty of female sports fans out there that are paying attention to more than the uniform colors or which team has the cutest QB.

3. Who do you consider role models, sports or otherwise? Additionally, what women in sports do you particularly admire - on the press, coaching, or athlete side? While we are here, do you consider yourself to be a role model?

Michael Jordan, of course. While I don't kid myself into believing he's perfect (the gambling, the women, etc.) I've looked up to him as an athlete and a competitor since I was a little girl with MJ posters all over my room. My mom has been a huge role model for me, too. She's a full-time lawyer with equal partnership in my parents' law firm, but she's always been there for her children as a mom, too. In her "free time" (I don't know how she has any) she tutors inner-city kids for the SATs, bakes dozens of cakes for her church's soup kitchen, quilts, has a rose sounds made-up, but she's legit Superwoman. I think the confidence, drive and ambition both my sister and I possess is directly related to the example our mother set for us as a career woman who can balance her work with being a mom and a million other things. Kenny Mayne is a huge role model of mine. I love how he combines his knowledge of sports with sarcasm, intelligence and a desire to entertain while informing, His "Mayne Event" videos are the kind of thing that inspires some of my funny, sports-centered, videos. As far as women in sportscasting, I respect Michelle Tafoya a lot. She knows her stuff and delivers her point of view with confidence, but in a conversational tone. As a woman working in sports (or any male-dominated industry, I suppose), sometimes it feels like you have to prove yourself over and over. I like how Tafoya seems comfortable and never forced. Am I a role model? Well, for everyone out there who doesn't know me as a person and only sees my e-Bay auction or my Bartman video, I can't imagine I am. On the other hand, I'm an Ivy-League educated, hard-working, honest person who has never sold out or bought into the b.s. that comes with trying to work in the entertainment industry. If someone cares enough to look back at the 60-something interviews I did during the Super Bowl fiasco, they'll see that I turned the conversation back to football and the Bears every chance I got and never let interviewers try to goad me into disrespecting myself or acting like a bimbo. If given the choice, I would always choose being funny and smart over being sexy (except, perhaps, in the bedroom!) I think that's a refreshing attitude in today's society, where people base their self-worth on being the prettiest, skinniest, most done-up person in the room. In LA, I watched people fly by me professionally because they were willing to give up their values or self-respect. I'm going to have the career I want without doing that--it just might take a little longer.

4. Do you get a lot of flack for your approach to exposure and press? People in the public eye always have critics, but how do you handle your particular critics? Does it even cross your mind or are you one to believe that any press is valuable?

I'll keep this one nice and simple: you can't please everyone. As I said, I had no idea my e-Bay auction was going to draw the press it did. When presented with an opportunity to not only go to the game (my initial goal) but also to work with and get to know people in the sports world, it was a no-brainer. I had been working at Fox Sports for several years, so I was qualified and experienced when the opportunity arose; I didn't suddenly decide I wanted to be a sportscaster because of my sudden exposure. I dealt with interviewers in a professional way and showed them that I wasn't an "attention whore" or faking my fandom. As a result, I got several job offers and have worked with at least 50% of the radio stations, websites and TV personalities on other projects or stories. So while many chose to view what I did in a negative light, the truth is I had a great idea and it worked. As for the Bartman video: that was for my job at We're a start-up website with amazing content but limited awareness. By combining the soul-crushing playoff losses of the Cubs with humor, pop-culture and a viral appeal, I managed to get tons of exposure for our site. I certainly don't believe any press is good press--for instance, I'd never sell-out like Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, making myself look like an idiot and a press-hungry freak show every day. My goal is be a knowledgeable and entertaining sportscaster and writer. If I get press for being one or all of those, then great.

5. We'll - you've been on a date on eBay and claimed to be getting intimate with Steve Bartman, what's next for Sarah Spain?

Well, I'm actually in a huge transition period right now. After 5 1/2 years in LA, I just moved back to Chicago to do reporting/writing and athlete relations for It's exciting to work directly with the athletes and get to do out-of-the-box, creative videos and stories. I'm happy to be back in Chicago working with the teams I love--even though the Cubs didn't give me a very good homecoming. I hope to continue to do freelance writing for websites and newspapers, like the Chicago Tribune Red Eye, too. The way things have been going recently, I know better than to try to guess what's ahead. I just enjoy it as its happening and hope for more adventures (smile).


Lindsay said...

I especially liked hearing who Sarah's role models are. That's cool that she gives her mom so much credit.

It was interesting how she said she has seen people "fly by" her in their careers because of giving up their values and self-respect. That was something to think about. It's great to hear from someone who truly believes in herself and knows what she is capable of.

One thing I want to point out is that it's hard for me to read so much text in italics. Might just be my bad eyes or others might have the same problem.

Apryl DeLancey said...

Sarah's attitude is great! I just had to feature her.

Thanks for the comment about the text - I appreciate that very much!