This reporter’s 14 minutes of fame opened with a “Beverly Hills, 90210” reference, which likely precludes me from 14 additional minutes down the line.
Slightly sunburned and seated in a Fifth Third Bank Ballpark suite, I’m on camera for a 14-minute documentary called “Sportswriter,” the thesis film of Columbia College graduate student R. Patrick Lile.
Disclosing the bygone bad habit of catching a “90210” rerun here or there during split shifts at my first newspaper job in downstate Lincoln, I’m recalling a fall 1996 episode that contends no one reads newspapers anymore.
“Here we are, 2013, and they’re still kicking,” comes the next breath.
There’s your 14 minutes in eight words.
Optimism swirls around “Sportswriter,” which came as no surprise.
Lile, 33, struck me as the upbeat type from the time he sent a random email proposing this project in March 2011. He Googled minor and independent league baseball teams around Chicago, settled on the Kane County Cougars and soon discovered I was relatively young and covering the team.
“A small-town sportswriter covering minor league baseball dreams of making it to the next level before it’s too late,” reads the summary in a program. On Friday, more than 2½ years later – hey, Lile’s been jetsetting while working on other films, including the award-winning “The Interrupters” about violence prevention in Chicago – things came full circle.
Using the parallel of minor leaguers’ dreams of reaching the major leagues, the documentary is set mostly at the ballpark. Several clips of preps stories appear in a montage. There’s a cameo from Chronicle photojournalist Sandy Bressner, and a riveting phone call to off-camera sports editor Jay Schwab.
Make no mistake: Friday wasn’t Pee Wee Herman shuttling through a receiving line of buddies to watch James Brolin tackle the dramatized story of his life. This was a Columbia College screening auditorium maybe half-filled with filmmakers, their families, film students and film, uh, subjects.
After the screenings, one of Lile’s crew members asked whether I cringed at the on-screen sound of my voice the way many nonactors on film do. The answer? Not so much; I’m pretty well used to this baritone from transcribing interviews over the years.
In the same vein, nothing on camera especially inspired embarrassment or squirming, but maybe that was just me following Lile’s lead.
As the night started, Lile and two fellow graduate students addressed the audience about their projects and ambitions and everything that led them to this night.
“I can’t really remember not wanting to be a filmmaker,” Lile said at one point.
Substitute “filmmaker” and “sportswriter,” and the same goes for me.
The documentary leaves many avenues open when its running time expires, and that’s the intent. If my on-screen career isn’t one of them, these 14 minutes will do.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.