(Jack Silverstein/For RedEye )
In a small classroom in the Boys & Girls Club of Logan Square, reporters, children and employees of both the Boys & Girls Club and Aaron's waited Thursday night for Earl Bennett.
Through his Legends For Literacy charity, Bennett had raised money to purchase 132 Kindles, to be distributed to 11 Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Chicago. Now he was ready to donate the Kindles, but the inclement weather had him running behind.
Still, all were excited to see him when he arrived, and he immediately faced their questioning. First up was a pack of professional Bears reporters.
They asked Bennett for his take on new coach Marc Trestman ("I like Trestman … I'm antsy to get the playbook and kind of go through it. … I'm pretty sure it will be a lot of fun."), if he'd spoken to Devin Hester about the offseason ("When I talk to Devin, we just talk about our families pretty much. I have seen him a few times, and we've hung out, but it's been nothing about football.") and learned that the Bears wide receivers have a book club (They just finished reading "Kingdom Man" by Tony Evans, which Bennett highly recommends.).
Meanwhile, the kids were seated in their little-kid chairs, and when Bennett finished with the adult media he walked to the front of the room to introduce himself and tell the kids about the donation.
"I just want to thank you guys," he said to the kids, "for allowing me to come here and help you guys out a little bit and give away some e-readers.
"This is my second event here at the Boys & Girls Club, so I'm pretty proud of it. I grew up going to the Boys & Girls Club back in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, so to be here today to give these e-readers away means a lot to me, and I hope you guys appreciate them."
The children stared up at him, anxious to ask their own questions. The first was innocuous ("What's your favorite color?" "Black. What's yours?" "Pink."), but soon after, Bennett learned the difference between answering questions from trained professionals as opposed to a horde of 7-year-olds. Questions included:
"Are you the best player on your team?" (Bennett, laughing: "That's a tough question. Can I come back [to that]?")
"How many touchdowns did you make?" (Bennett, not laughing: "I had two this year. Not enough.")
"How many Super Bowls did you win this year?" (Bennett, definitely not laughing: "None.")
"Do you fall down a lot?" (Bennett, smiling and honest: "Do I fall? I fall every now and again.")
"Did you ever get seriously injured?" (Bennett, nodding: "Yeah." Kid: "Where?" Bennett: "My head.")
Bennett also learned that three members of the audience were Packers fans ("I thought we were friends …") while the kids learned that when Bennett scores touchdowns, he does not do "a silly dance." One boy, however, showed off his own personal touchdown dance, to the delight of everyone in the room.
After the two press conferences, Bennett distributed the Kindles to the kids and stayed with them to do some reading after most of the media had departed. He kindly told the boy with the touchdown dance that "I might use that," to which the boy suddenly raised a finger and snapped, "Man, if I ever I turn on a game and see you doing my touchdown dance, I'ma –" but the threat was never finished, since Bennett pointed to another boy in the hallway and said, "He's doing your dance."
"Hey!" the kid shouted, running after his friend. Bennett laughed and looked jokingly relieved.
As he learned Thursday, dealing with kids is no laughing matter.
"Seven-year-old questions are a lot tougher," he said later with a chuckle when asked to compare the 7-year-olds to the pros. "They're harsh, blunt--whatever's on their mind they're going to say."
And so, the 64 million dollar question: Day in and day out, would he rather face the questions of compassionate, professional adults or ruthless, bloodthirsty children?
"I'm taking the adults," he said. "The 7-year-olds, man, they're cut-throat. They just come out and say whatever they have to say. They don't care. They don't worry about your feelings. They just say what's on their mind."
And he laughed again, thankful to be back on safe ground.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor.
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