Friday, February 10, 2006

My Olympic moment: prank calling Bonnie Blair's house

Since the Winter Games are starting, it's time to tell my personal Olympic moment. It happened during the 1992 Olympic games in Albertville, France. I was a freshman attending college in Champaign, Illinois. Champaign also happened to be the hometown of speed skating gold-medal hopeful Bonnie Blair.

Champaign loved Bonnie Blair in a way only a small town can. Shops had handwritten "GO BONNIE!" signs in the windows. The local news had multiple stories about Bonnie every night: chatting with Bonnie's family, a report on what Bonnie was doing for fun in France, interviews with Bonnie's trainer, and technical information on Bonnie's equipment. The police even put Bonnie Blair stickers on their squad cars. Champaign was Bonnie's town.

And don't get me wrong: I loved Bonnie Blair as much as the rest of Champaign did. Bonnie Blair had that midwest earnestness and charm that made her a perfect hero. She was an amazing athlete, but somehow managed to keep that "aw, shucks" modesty that made everyone want to sing her praises even more.

During the speed-skating finals, I was hanging out with friends in the dorm room of my friend Brian when the news came in over the radio: Bonnie had just won her first medal! Brian's immediate reaction was, "We've got to congratulate her family!" He picked up the phone book and flipped to BLAIR.

"You're not really going to call her family, are you?" I asked.

"Why not?" He dialed and put the call on speakerphone. When someone picked up, everyone in the room did the logical thing: we started screaming "WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! BONNIE! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO! GO BONNIE!" like the jackasses we were.

They hung up immediately, but I always felt bad. Sorry, Bonnie. Even though we prank called your family, we totally didn't mean any harm by it. You totally rock.

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