Peter Sagal for Chicago Tribune: Who'll take the crown?

May 20th, 2011

Chicago Tribune
Who’ll take the crown?
I humbly nominate myself

By Peter Sagal Special to the Tribune
3:15 p.m. CDT, May 20, 2011
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With the departure of Oprah Winfrey, the pressing question of the day becomes: Who shall seize her crown as Chicago’s Pre-eminent National Broadcast Celebrity?

The answer is obvious. To quote Franco Nero in the movie “Camelot,” “c’est moi.”

It was a close thing, but Paul Harvey died, Roger Ebert went to Twitter, Richard Roeper moved to the web, Ira Glass fled to New York, Mancow Muller got cancelled, and Rick Bayless films his TV show mostly in Mexico and in a “Chicago townhouse” that I suspect is actually a green-screened special effect of some kind; nobody is really that neat. Much as in my days playing dodgeball in eighth-grade Gym class, my strategy of cowering in the back while my stronger, more talented competitors were eliminated in the front lines has worked. It’s time to rally behind me, Chicagoans, because I’m all you have left.

I am ready to accept the duties and responsibilities of being Chicago’s Airwave Ambassador to the Nation, as established by long tradition. First, when I discuss Chicago, I shall refer only to extremely well known icons of the city. Sagal’s Chicago will consist of the Sears (yes, still) Tower looming over a Pizzeria Uno on Michigan Avenue, right next to Wrigley Field, where the Cubs shall always lose, lovably. This city will be populated only by Michael Jordan, Rahm Emanuel, Scott Turow, the ghost of Al Capone and people who used to see Barack Obama when he walked down the street for a haircut. And every six months, I will introduce my audience to Garrett Popcorn, then wait for them to forget I mentioned it, so I can introduce it to them again.

I will regularly claim, via my position as Chicago’s Pre-Eminent National Broadcast Celebrity, a Midwesterner’s common sense and simple values, even though I am actually from New Jersey. Sometimes when I do this, I shall broadcast from a bar, which I will refer to as a “tavern.” Usually, my common-sense Midwestern wisdom will boil down to something like “Cut out the nonsense, guys” or “Just do your job” or other similar platitudes, but coming from me, your Pre-Eminent National Broadcast Celebrity, they will seem as bracing as the wind off Lake Michigan.

I’ll also provide continuity through the transition from Oprah to me, although we’ll have to adapt for public radio budgets. We’ll do a Favorite Things episode, but every year, my “favorite thing” will turn out to be remaindered coffee mugs from WBEZ’s canceled show “Odyssey.” Instead of taking the audience to Australia, we’ll roll up some school buses and take them out to watch harness racing at Maywood Park: “You get a parlay, and you get a parlay, and you get a parlay!” And, like my esteemed predecessor, I, too, will repeatedly deny I have a romantic relationship with Gayle King.

Most important, as Chicago’s own Pre-Eminent National Broadcast Celebrity, I shall immediately devote most of my time and energy to getting out of town. There is no better way to express your love for Chicago than to spend most of your time in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, New York or St. Maarten, and while there, express nostalgia for the great food, great people and simple pleasures of life back home in Chicago. Go Cubbies! And have you heard of popcorn from Garrett’s? It’s great. I’m doing a segment on it next week.

Peter Sagal is the host of NPR’S “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” co-produced in Chicago by Chicago Public Radio.