by Jeff Fleischer(The Heckler, June 2004)
In his three seasons as counterterrorism agent Tony Almeida on Fox’s Emmy-winning drama “24,” Wilmette native Carlos Bernard has helped thwart a presidential assassination, a nuclear attack and the release of a deadly virus. But like the rest of us, he couldn’t stop the Marlins in last year’s NLCS. We talked with Bernard about his favorite team, Los Angeles sports fans, and how loving the Cubs gives you the resolve to save the world.
The Heckler: Growing up in Wilmette, was there ever any doubt about being a Cubs fan versus a Sox fan?
Carlos Bernard: Well, there was, because my dad grew up a Sox fan. My dad would occasionally take us to Sox games, but I liked going to Cubs games more and watching them on TV with my friends. I wouldn’t root against the Sox when we’d go to the games, but the Cubs were my team. My brother and my dad were big Sox fans, so we had a split household (laughs). And it still is to this day. We’re always giving each other grief about the White Sox and Cubs.
TH: What was the best game you saw in person?
CB: I’ll tell you, I got to come back and see Mark Prior’s debut. The Cubs got me tickets right behind home plate so I could watch him pitch from right back there, which was really cool. It was unbelievable to go with that much hype – it was sort of like LeBron James – to have that much hype and the guy actually comes through and lives up to it. I still have the ticket stub I saved from that game. Every time I come back to Chicago I go to games, take my dad and my brother. Six years ago we went to a game and caught two balls in batting practice, which was cool. You know what, it’s almost more of a general excitement of going to the park. Especially now since I only get to go once or twice a year, so it’s a real special thing to go back there.
TH: What was your most memorable moment at Wrigley?
CB: My most memorable moment in the park was actually before I left, when I was leaving for acting school in San Francisco. The night before, I went out partying with some of my buddies, we were out until about three in the morning. We’re walking past Wrigley Field and one of my buddies says he can get us in. I don’t know how he does it, but he shimmies up the fence and opens this door to the outfield. We walk into the park, and there’s a full moon, so the park’s completely lit up by the moon. We’re running around – you know, we’re all drunk – and we’re running around the outfield, sticking ivy in our pockets and sitting in the dugout just hanging out and talking. After about forty minutes, we look at each other like, “we should get out of here.” So we leave back through the gate we came through. We get across the street, and three squad cars pull up and surround us. Now I had to catch a plane in literally about four hours. The police are like, “you fellas the ones in the park? It’s okay, just fess up, it’s no big deal.” We keep going, “no, we weren’t in there.” Meanwhile, we have ivy sticking out of our pockets and shit. One of the guys with us had an uncle on the force, pulled the police aside and talked to him. After a few minutes, the officer says, “okay fellas, we’ll give you a warning this time, but stay out of that park.” So they let us go, and I was able to make my plane.
TH: Do you still have the ivy?
CB: You know, I kept it in my room in San Francisco, but it finally shriveled up and blew away.
TH: Who were your favorite Cubs players?
CB: When I was really small, Don Kessinger was my favorite. Through the years it changed. I loved Andre Dawson, thought he was awesome. It was fun back when Dave Kingman was on that tear. Most recently, I really like Moises Alou. I like watching him play and I like his attitude – he’s just a tough guy. And I love to watch Mark Prior pitch.
TH: Where do you like to sit when you get back to Wrigley?
CB: When I come back, I try to go to at least two games a season – one in the bleachers and one in the stands, as good of tickets as I can get. They’re both great for different reasons. I love sitting in the bleachers, it just makes you feel great, it’s so alive. And I like the stands because they’re better seats to watch the game. The bleachers tend to be a more of party, so I sometimes like having the better seats so I can pay a bit more attention to the game.
TH: How would you compare baseball fans in Los Angeles to the ones you grew up around in Chicago?
CB: Aside from getting there in the third inning and leaving in the seventh? (laughs) It’s so funny because I just went to all the games when the Cubs were here. I’d say it was seriously about 40 percent Cubs fans. And every game by about the eighth inning, it was all Cubs fans left. All the Dodger fans were gone – maybe not all of them, but definitely most of them. Chavez Ravine is a cool place to see a game. It’s not a bad stadium, but it’s not Wrigley. It’s just there’s so many other outdoor things to do in California year-round that I don’t think fans get as voracious about going to the ballgame. It’s like a light entertainment, whereas in Chicago when you go to a sporting event, you’re looking forward to it for a few days. It doesn’t feel that way here.
TH: Are you able to follow the team pretty well out there?
CB: Yeah. I get WGN and if the game’s not on TV, I’ll usually check in on the Web.
TH: On “24,” your character’s always dealing with situations where the day gets progressively worse, where you’re always close to a solution and it slips away. How has being a Cubs fan prepared you for that type of a role?
CB: (Laughs) I never thought about that. I get so much grief for being a Cubs fan on the set; LA fans just don’t understand it. They’ll turn out when a team’s doing well, and won’t even bother to follow it when they’re not. Like the Lakers. They’re down 0-2 to San Antonio and the whole town’s talking about how crappy the team is and how they just went down the dumpster. Then all of a sudden they’re back into it, and tie it up 2-2 and suddenly the Lakers are the best team ever again. The thing about it, it’s funny that you’re joking about that question, but the funny thing about Chicago sports fans is we’re so used to getting close and not making it, but not quitting. I think there’s really a huge thing to that, with kids growing up and learning not to quit. So I think Cubs fans have a little something extra in the tank because of that.
TH: In a pressure situation, do you take “24”’s President David Palmer, or do you take Dusty Baker?
CB: Oh man, I don’t know. I think I’m going to stick with Dusty. President Palmer keeps letting his ex-wife talk him into too much shit.
TH: Last year, were you watching games six and seven against the Marlins as they happened, or did you have to catch them later?
CB: Oh no, I saw them live on TV. I was watching them at home alone – just with my wife and baby – because I couldn’t handle watching it with anyone else. People wanted to watch it as a group, and I was like, ‘I can’t do it.’ So I watched it at home and got crushed like everybody else.
TH: You have a reputation as “24”’s on-set prankster. What’s a prank you’d love to play on Josh Beckett?
CB: I’d shave that crap off his face when he was passed out. And his eyebrows, too. God, I hate Josh Beckett. It was that one comment when he was talking about brushing Sosa back. Like [Pedro] Martinez you can respect, because he doesn’t make any bones about it. But Beckett was kind of inferring that Sosa was just being a wuss, and he was being such an asshole about it.
TH: What’s your take on this year’s team? How optimistic are you?
CB: I’m just hoping they make it into the playoffs, and from there on it’s anybody’s game. Houston just won’t lose, they’re killing me. But I’m thinking the Cubs are going to make the playoffs. There’s been so many injuries and they’re still hanging in there, and they’re not really hitting the ball yet like they can.
TH: Any advice for the other fans out there?
CB: Just keep the faith. Man, just keep the faith.