Philadelphia boy lives radio dream
E:60 Radio Dream Team
Jamie Convey was born to talk, so to speak.
He was born to rant about the Eagles and Phillies and all things Philadelphia sports on his own Internet radio show.
But first he listened.
He arrived 10 weeks premature on Feb. 5, 2001, with cerebral palsy, a brain affliction that impedes motor function. Unable to move like other infants, Jamie listened. Words went into his ears and sought an outlet.
When Jamie was 9 months, his parents took him to see his doctor.
"He should be saying between two and five words," the doctor said.
"Try 150," said Jim Convey, his father.
At 2, Jamie began to watch reality courtroom TV, and at 3 he chattered about Judge Judy.
He was 5 when he embraced his father's passion for sports. Jim Convey is a former Division III football player whose family owns or has owned season tickets to every pro team in Philadelphia.
Jim Convey is so passionate about the Eagles that he is enshrined in the Hall of Fans of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jamie devoured TV sports, even golf and college football, both of which his father avoids. When the late Harry Kalas called a Phillies game, Jamie soaked it in.
Jim Convey remembers his son's fascination with Kalas' call of a Phillies home run shortly before Kalas died April 13, 2009. Jamie replayed the call over and over on the DVR.
"Why are you rewinding the TV?" Jim asked.
"I want to hear Harry's home run call," Jamie said.
Now Jamie's chatter was accompanied by opinions. Not only did he like to talk, he also liked to think. If he disagreed with Charlie Manuel's batting order or Andy Reid's play calling, he said so. In second grade, he wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to lower taxes on small-business owners so that his father could spend more time at home from his sign-making company.
With all his physical challenges, and unable to join in the games of children his age, he had become precocious. He had spent much of his young life around adult therapists. Now he could talk to adults with the tone and bearing of an adult.
A little more than a year ago, Jamie hit a rough spot. He was 9, and as he watched his peers expand their physical and social worlds beyond his reach, he was lonely and frustrated. His spirit sagged, and his anger exploded unpredictably upon his parents and three younger brothers. In the thick of a tantrum, he told his mother he wanted to kill himself.
Instead, on a summer day, he Googled "radio show" and found a website for do-it-yourself Internet broadcasting. That day, while at a hospital waiting to be X-rayed, he petitioned his father.
"Can we start a sports talk show?"
They went home and followed the instructions on the website, and the next morning Jamie was on the air with his father as sidekick.
That was the start of his half-hour "Jamie C" show on Saturday mornings. With four boys in the family, once-a-week works well with the Conveys' schedule. Jamie's style is bantering, brash, argumentative and playful. His recall of sports information is almost photographic. And his wit and sense of humor make it all fun.
The audience and callers consist of family, friends, classmates and school aides from the Broomall, Pa., area, and even Eagles play-by-play guy Merrill Reese, who surprised Jamie with a call. After a local TV station ran a short feature about the show, Jamie found a measure of celebrity. He was invited to meet the Phillies' broadcast team.
With his broadcast identity and the attention it brings, his fellow fifth-graders look at him in a new light.
"The kids at his school are really excited about it," said Cristy Convey, his mother. "They talk to him about it, and that's a way he can really connect with them."
At school, on the playground, Jamie entertains his classmates by announcing their kickball games at recess. At the high school gym, he announces floor hockey games over the PA system.
Jamie's outlook has improved since the show started.
"It's been tremendous for him, absolutely boosted his ego," his father said.
More than a year after the show's debut, Jamie's disability still demands therapy. He goes to a track once a week with his father, grits his teeth and exercises on his walker. He continues his weekly sessions with an occupational, physical and speech therapist. The speech therapist works to improve the muscle tone around his mouth so he can speak more clearly.
But now Jamie's favorite therapy takes place every Saturday morning for 30 minutes.
"When he's sitting next to the microphone he has his voice and he has his mind so he's equal to everyone else," Cristy Convey said. "I think that's why he loves that half hour a week."
Steve Marantz is an "E:60" researcher and author of "The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central: High School Basketball at the '68 Racial Divide."