Rachel Christensen knows the signals. She’s seen them often enough over the Past nine years.
She and her little girl are waiting for their turn someplace — perhaps in a doctor’s waiting room — and, when someone emerges to call the person who’s next, a look of confusion crosses the person’s face as he or she reads the name. Is this a typo? A misspelling? Is there a letter missing somewhere? Is this a joke?
Then comes the attempt at pronunciation, often incorrect and spoken as if it contains a question mark at the end.
Espn? E-S-P-N? E …?
And new acquaintances? “When we meet strangers, they say what’s her name and I’ll tell them and they’ll say, ‘it’s so cute; how do you spell it?’ ” Christensen said. “Then, when I tell them, they always get a real funny look on their face.”
Such is life for little Espn Ostroskie. The Central Point, Ore., third grader is one of a small number of children whose sports-crazy parents have chosen to name their child, boy or girl, after the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. You know, the one in Bristol, Conn.
For Christensen and her fiance, Shawn Ostroskie, the decision was simple. “Her dad and I both love sports and he has an older daughter,” Rachel Christensen, an administrative assistant at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Ore., said in a phone interview. “He didn’t want to have any more kids and then I was pregnant and I wanted him to be excited about being pregnant. I saw Espn in the name book and after that he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna have a kid named Espn!’”
ESPN may be ubiquitous, but Espn the baby name isn’t. It doesn’t appear among the top 1,000 choices since 1980 for either a boy or a girl in the Social Security Administration’s database. Admittedly, not everyone gets the choice.
“We didn’t know if she was going to be a boy or girl, but we both liked it,” Christensen said. “Everybody thinks we’re crazy and nobody can say it right.”
For the couple, the issues with Espn started right in the delivery room. “It took them like six tries to spell her name right on the little footprint card,” Christensen said with a laugh. “They kept having to footprint her over and over. They kept wanting to add another e … Espen.”
A doctor’s office, for instance, called her Eppen. “Normally, I know it’s our turn when we go places because they’ll look around before they start trying to say her name, like maybe they can identify her without it. They usually say, E-S-P-N. That’s how they usually will call her.”
Espn, who will turn 10 on Halloween, likes softball, basketball and swimming. Although she, like the rest of her family, is an avid Oregon Ducks fan, she is not a devoted viewer of the network. Asked what she thinks about having such an unusual name, she says sweetly, “I’m lucky.”
Children can be brutally honest, but Espn says she hasn’t been teased or taunted over her name.
“Mostly, they think it’s cool,” she said. “I haven’t ever had to explain it to anybody.”
There’s always the option of using her middle name, Gray, but she says she’s “never” wished she had another name. Her 4-year-old sister is pretty happy with her name, too. Autzen is named for the home of the Ducks, a place she calls “my stadium.”
So far, the family hasn’t heard from the network, but in the 2014 movie “Blended,” Adam Sandler has a daughter with the name Espn and, Christensen said, he “would sing the ‘SportsCenter’ theme to her all the time. We call our Espn ‘Doo’ because we always go ‘Doo doo doo, doo doo doo.”
Espn recently visited a local TV station and her mom reports that she looked pretty comfortable in the anchor’s chair.
“We always joke with her about being a sports journalist and having her own show,” she wrote in an email. “Espn on ESPN!”