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Christina Kahrl preps for move, larger role at ESPN
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2016-12-20

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Chicago is losing a staunch LGBT activist with national ties—one who also can and does talk about the blistering fastballs from Aroldis Chapman, a World Series star for the Cubs this fall, and the home-run heroics of Kris Bryant, also a 2016 Cubs sensation.

Christina Kahrl is taking a bigger part in the sports scene.

Kahrl, who has lived in Chicago's western suburbs and South Side as well as Rogers Park ( the latter since 2007 ) is moving to Bristol, Connecticut, to work at ESPN's corporate headquarters. She has been a writer-editor for ESPN.com, but has been promoted to senior editor. Her new gig will entail more editing year round, more long-term planning and, obviously, less time at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field ( formerly known as U.S. Cellular Field, or its common nickname, The Cell ), respective homes of the Cubs and White Sox.

"As much as we love Chicago, there's no question that I'll be able to do so much more there than I could working remotely on the editorial side of things," said Kahrl, one of the most high-profile transgender individuals in the mainstream sports world. She has been married to Charley Mae Wanamaker, who works in property management, since 2014.

"[The move] also means the virtual end to what reporting I was able to do for ESPN from Wrigley, or The Cell, or other ballparks, [but] I'm excited about the opportunities and challenges that [the move] will give me as I help take a larger role as part of the team planning ESPN.com's national coverage. In particular, I'll be working with ESPN.com's Insider assets, [such as] Buster Olney, Keith Law and Jim Bowden, which is particularly exciting."

Despite her professional joy, the personal move saddens Kahrl. "There's no place I'd rather be in the country, but ESPN has proven reliably reticent to move the whole shindig here for my benefit," she said with a hint of humor. "I've left before and come back, so never say never."

Kahrl said she'll miss the neighborhoods the most, plus the people and the ballparks. Rogers Park, in particular, "because where else can you get a great neighborhood, great beaches, great Mexican food, and a quick ride to Wrigley on the El, all in one," she said.

Kahrl's passion and pride in Chicago aren't lost on her, knowing she once swore she'd never move to the Windy City. That was, mind you, some 30-plus years ago.

"I'm still amused by the fact that when I came here from California as a high school senior to check out college campuses, I came in February [and] experienced the [cold and snowy] weather," she said. "Then the University of Chicago made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and I learned what Nelson Algren meant when he wrote of Chicago, 'Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.'"

Kahrl said her list of Chicago memories is long, such as:

—Having kids in the neighborhood learn her dog's name ( Argentina ).

—Having her favorite taqueria cater their wedding.

—Doing pregame/postgame shows for CLTV in the 1990s.

—Choking up the first time she came back to Wrigley Field after moving away, "because while I might be agnostic on Cubs/Sox, I love that ballpark."

—Interviewing guys like Lorenzo Cain or Ron Washington in the visitor's dugout at The Cell.

—Hours spent in Powell's Books, looking for finds.

—The pizza at R Public House.

—Having Charley teach Argentina to swim on a warm moonlit spring night.

—Brunch at Wilde along Broadway.

—The memories of now-closed restaurant Erwin.

—The morning after the Cubs won.

—The day after Obama was elected president.

—The weeks of planning for the night Kahrl and others challenged the discriminatory anti-trans door policy at Hunter's Night Club in suburban Elk Grove Village.

—The snowy night she nearly had to take a baseball bat to a UPS drop box trying to get a marked-up, line-edited draft of the 1997 Baseball Prospectus inside it.

She officially leaves Chicago in February.

So Christina, what about the Cubs' 2016 World Series title?

"It was something I predicted before the season [started], but that's pretty unremarkable," she said. "The rebuild has been a long, slow-motion act of accumulated dominance. That wave hasn't crested, and this team will win multiple titles over the next five years. But even more amazing was that they didn't just win, they—and the [Cleveland] Indians—gave us one of the most memorable World Series ever. If it had been a four-game romp, like the [New York] Yankees' obliteration of the [San Diego] Padres, or the White Sox' stomp of the [Houston] Astros in 2005, how memorable would that have been, beyond it ending mentions of the damned goat?"

Kahrl will, after the move, remain on the board of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and added that she's looking forward to some of the things that the group will be able to do with ESPN and other major media organizations in the future. "On the state and local level, I have no idea [what's ahead in regard to LGBT advocacy] beyond volunteering to help the folks already there, doing whatever I can, and hopefully having the time to give outside of work. That said, much like Illinois, Connecticut is in pretty good shape as far as legislation and civil equality.


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