The Fame Phenomenon

by admin on January 31, 2013

To my surprise (and pleasure), two non-chess-playing friends e-mailed me a link to the same New York Times article. Nicholas Kristof, a regular op-ed columnist and former Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote a column today about Elizabeth Spiegel and her national champion chess team at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn.

Long-time readers of this blog are probably getting tired already of hearing me sing Elizabeth’s praises, so to avoid repetition let me just provide links to my previous posts about her and I.S. 318 and the movie Brooklyn Castle:

It was interesting to me that at this late date, long after the movie and the Rachel Maddow Show and everything else, people in the general public are still just hearing about Elizabeth and I.S. 318 for the first time. This reminds me that just because something is already well-known in our little circle of chess lovers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the world knows about it. We should continue trying to beat the drums, continue telling our friends about chess as a great equalizer of opportunity, and also tell them about how even a program as successful as Elizabeth’s is just barely hanging on financially, in an era of cutbacks to school budgets.

But to me, there is good news here too. When a Pulitzer Prize winner like Nicholas Kristof gets in your corner, you’re not going to be anonymous or even semi-anonymous any more. People you don’t know are going to start sending e-mails about you to people they know.

It’s interesting to watch this phenomenon of fame. It’s like an echo chamber. It starts out small, when the first people in the media hear your story. Then bigger people in the media hear those people, and even bigger people hear them, and it grows and grows until finally it gets into the New York Times or the network news, and then everybody knows about it.

But after that, does it continue? Do people still care? Or a year from now, are they going to say, “Oh yeah, that chess teacher. I wonder what ever happened to her?”

Oh well, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m sitting here today, bangin’ them drums.


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