By Pete Cunningham
Pete Cunningham’s Blog, Word on the Street
Posted: February 9, 2008
Wunderkind Ryan Michaels, 12, was honored Friday, Feb.6, by the Michigan Press Association as the youngest-ever recipient of a professional journalism award. As I’m sure you all know by now, Ryan writes movie reviews for the Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader of Heritage Newspapers, Inc., and beat out other journalists (myself included) from weekly papers with a circulation under 4,000 in the category of local columnist.
Motivated by the subsequent jealous rage that accompanies losing to a 12-year-old (see U.S. women’s gymnasts) I wrote a column about Ryan (pdf) back in October, which the MPA printed in their weekly publication, The Bulletin. In addition to publishing my column, the MPA was kind enough to invite me, along with Ryan and his father, Kevin Michaels, as special guests to their annual convention at the Amway Hotel in Grand Rapids.
In my column about losing to Ryan, I wrote that I felt like I was playing second fiddle to him. At the convention, we weren’t even in the same band.
People flocked to Ryan to congratulate him. They would then introduce themselves to Kevin, then awkwardly ask who I was. No one seemed to care, but because I was with Ryan, they felt obligated to inquire.
Here is a rough synopsis of how this all went down:
Person X: It’s great to meet you, Ryan. Congratulations.
Ryan: Thanks. You know what they say, journalism awards today, world domination tomorrow. Here, take one of my business cards (yes, he has business cards) and please visit my website (yes, he has a website.)
Person X: Kevin, you must be very proud of your son.
Kevin: Yes, thank you.
Person X: And you are? (in a real “I don’t care” tone)
Me: Hi, I’m Pete. I haven’t won any awards, but I did write an article about Ryan winning an award, so I got invited, too. I never pass up a free lunch!
One MPA member – confusing me for an employee of the catering company – actually began giving me instructions on how she wanted tables set up in the banquet hall. In a room full of peers and prospective employers, a 12-year-old was on a first name basis with everyone in the room and I was being asked to bus tables.
No one really seemed interested in my article, so I just started saying “Hi, I’m Pete, and I got my ass kicked by a 12-year-old.” This at least got a chuckle out of most.
State legislators, Lt. Governor John Cherry and every other distinguished guest at the convention posed for pictures with Ryan. I, on the there hand, was able to trick one of the cuter hotel staffers into taking a picture with me.
Convincing an attractive female to fake enthusiasm in my presence without having to pay her (I told her it was for an article, easy play at a press convention) provided a temporary ego boost.
Riding my high spirits from the aforementioned deception, I decided it was a good time to check my e-mail. There, awaited a message from a producer at “The Bonnie Hunt Show.” It read:
“Pete, I read your article about Ryan Michaels and would love to get in touch with him. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.”
Apparently, the nationally televised talk show wants Ryan’s perspective on the latest blockbusters.
When I grow up, I want to be Ryan Michaels.