Monday, December 17, 2007

You're in the Hot Box - hello! Chris Earl update

Earlier this year, I was on a conference call where we were mapping out the layout of a new website. Someone on the other end referred to one zone in the center of the site to the "hot box." To which I silently mouthed "Hello!"

If you lived in Madison in the fall of 1996, loved sports, and had nothing to do on Wednesday nights, you were watching cable access TV, specifically The Hot Box with Chris Earl.

I had gotten to know Chris in the spring of '96, when along with Schwalbach and some others we studied reporting in Journalism 206 with Steve Lorenzo. Steve was one of the best teachers I ever had, and he did a great job with the class. Studying under Steve was what I imagined it would have been like to attend a small, liberal arts college. Chris wrote a story about the health merits of running a marathon that was quite compelling.

Chris did a little writing for the Cardinal, and we bumped into each other around Vilas Hall quite a bit. When he stopped by the office one day to ask me to be on his new show, I said "Hell yeah!" Chris did a great job with the show, moderated a small roundtable - which included Steve Mann, and I believe Eric Gitter - and took calls, including ones from my roommates. When the caller was patched through, he would great him with "You're in The Hot Box - hello!"

One time he threw Gitter off the set for a seemingly minor infraction. Afterward we'd go to Steve's place (Steve was easily the most polished of the group) and watch the tape, good times. One time Chris walked into the gas station while Corbett was working; Corby, who had never met him, yelled "You're in The Hot Box!" to which Chris, instead of running, replied "Hello!"

Through the magic of LinkedIn, I reconnected with Chris last week. Turns out he's now a TV news anchor at WEAU in Eau Claire after sports stints in Duluth, Topeka, and Madison.

Also, as you may have read in On Wisconsin, the UW alumni publication, Chris has also published a couple of books: Gotcha Down, about greed and competition at fictional Wisconsin State and The Interim, about an unlikely basketball coach at the same school. Have to admit, I haven't read them, more of a non-fiction guy, but I owe it to Chris to pick them up now. It might be too late for Christmas gifts, but not Kwanzaa, so give Chris's website a look,

In a sense, he's living the dream - who among us Cardinal sportswriters in the mid-'90s didn't fantasize writing a book at some point in our lives? It's early, and it still might happen, but Chris did it already. He also has a wife of nine years and two children.

Show of hands, who watched The Hot Box?


Burch said...

Guilty! Thanks to this avid viewer, the Hot Box roundtable had the pleasure of fielding completely off-topic calls about Bernie Kosar virtually every Wed night.

For a collegiate production, the format was quite impressive and ahead of its time. Didn't Gitter cause a controversy with an on-air statement he made about one of the UW sports teams? Rugby perhaps?

Jim Polzin said...

Not only is Earl talented, he's also smart (he married a girl from Clintonville).

I just saw him last weekend at Lambeau and spent a few minutes catching up with him. He's a good guy.

I was on the Hot Box once. It was during my NASCAR stage, and I'm pretty sure I had an Earnhardt key chain that I diplayed for the camera. In retrospect, not one of my prouder moments.

Corby said...

I had seen Earl doing the news when I was up north in Hayward this past summer. Only one channel comes in at the place we stay, and I had to laugh when I was watching the news and there he was. The best memory of calling into the Hot Box was how Tappa's face would turn Badger red as he recognized one of our voices calling in with some dumb Cubs, Celtics, Browns question. I met two celebs in my time at the Freedom gas station, Barry Alvarez and Chris Earl. I was living the dream and did not even know it.

Scott Tappa said...

Then why didn't you marry a Clintonville girl, Jimmy?

I remember the call-ins very well, you guys were very civilized.

Coby, which takes the cake: meeting Chris and Barry at Freedom, or selling whipped cream and condoms to Lars at the Deli?

Corby said...

Wow. Good memory Tappa. For the record it was vegetable oil, condoms, and bread that Lars bought at the Deli. Having Barry Alvarez come in was pretty cool, but the shock value of what the high school journalism teacher was buying from a high school student at the corner gas station probably takes the cake. It was just odd.

Millie said...

Since you guys are talking about Madison celebs, does anyone know about Libby Hoeller? I just heard about the young lady (freshman in 1999 or so) and the story is quite interesting. Do a quick google search (though probably not at work) and you'll see what I mean.

Toohey said...

Excellent find Millie. I had not heard of her. I can see why they got leaked by her boyfriend. They're almost comical. I can't believe you didn't play the "hot box" theme instead of the Madison celeb theme. :D

Millie said...

Well played Toohey. Well played.

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