O'Donnell: Rafer Weigel ends 'revenge porn' nightmare for Dick Wolf's 'Chicago Fire'

  • Former sportscaster and news anchor Rafer Weigel says he's now "a better person."

    Former sportscaster and news anchor Rafer Weigel says he's now "a better person." Courtesy of Rafer Weigel

Updated 2/19/2020 5:44 PM


Lyrically, it has a workable rhythm to it.


Something that "Weird Al" Yankovic could have parodied to "Cat Scratch Fever" or a tune that could have made the final cut on to the soundtrack from "This Is Spinal Tap."

Instead, it was the scream dream behind select headlines Rafer Weigel found himself a primary subject of in recent months.

He was the hockey puck in a text and later legal faceoff involving an ex-fiancee and a married woman who claimed she was going through "a painful divorce" when he met her via Instagram last March.

At the outset, socially, he was a free agent and professionally, a morning news anchor at the den of dormancy doing business as WFLD-Channel 32.

When the meow mix finally began to settle a few weeks ago, Weigel was out of the job at 32 and contemplating a blank easel of life.

So, summoning the chops he developed during a very promising decade as an actor in southern California, he called a casting director who had once served as his theatrical agent.

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"She had me reading for a part on 'Chicago Fire' within days, the first acting call I'd gone on since I left that business for sports media back in 2001," the forever-young son of the mythic Tim Weigel said.

"I got the part. It's a one-shot deal that should air in the next few weeks.

"If I don't wind up on the cutting room floor, I will be credited as 'Rafer Brian.' That's my first and middle names and initially the name I wanted to use as an actor but didn't because I wanted to stay perfect in what I perceived as the Weigel mold."

"Chicago Fire" is part of Dick Wolf's fabulously successful local action-drama empire, a group that has also included "Chicago P.D.," "Chicago Med" and "Chicago Justice."

Weigel's acting resume remains impressive.

Among entries are a starring role co-billed alongside Eric McCormack and William Shatner in the cultish "Free Enterprise" (1999) and a prominent turn with director/co-star Emilio Estevez and brother Charlie Sheen in Showtime's "Rated X" (2000).


He switched to sports media in tribute weeks after his father's still-unfathomable death on Father's Day 2001.

The "revenge porn" business found him an accountable tumbling weed on a field of land mines.

Involved story short, he exchanged texted photos some would deem "racy" -- and not in the Indy 500 sense -- with a roaming soccer mom.

His ex-fiancee returned to the picture and found them. She began an animated text dialogue with the married woman.

Orders of protection followed, Weigel filing first.

In the wake of the maelstrom, Channel 32 chief Dennis Welsh and news director Matt Paciente agreed to Weigel's request for a 90-day "family medical leave."

The leave expired three weeks ago.

Welsh and Paciente -- the same fellows who try to pass the blindingly benign Corey McPherrin off as lead anchor fronting the weakest news operation in town -- then dismissed him.

"I am a better person because of all of this," Weigel now says.

"I've had to re-examine who I am, why part of me behaves as I do and what I really want to be doing with the rest of my life."

On the emojied battlefield of modern romance, the projection is that a wiser Rafer Weigel will survive.

STREET-BEATIN': The Cubs' new Marquee Sports Network will sign on at 1 p.m. Saturday with Ryan Dempster and Cole Wright hosting "Marquee Debut." David Ross and his Wiggling mysterians then open their spring training slate vs. the Athletics at 2 p.m. Still no MSN deal with Comcast and somehow the feeling is the sun -- and the $200 monthly Comcast bills -- will still be around on Sunday. ...

Most media was perplexed by Michael Jordan's live absence from all NBA-sponsored events during All-Star weekend. Three main reasons: 1) Now age 57, His Airness hates to commit to anything but the most essential; 2) Jordan is self-restrained enough to not want to steal anyone's thunder; and, 3) He retains deep respect for John Paxson and did not want to risk prompting any sort of public ire toward the Bulls besieged VP of basketball ops. ...

In terms of viewership, the All-Star Game itself was predictably a ho-hummer, averaging 7.3 million on TNT/TBS. Sunday's presentation of the Daytona 500 on CBS earlier in the day was already over 11 million when it was postponed until Monday due to rain. ...

Turner staff was not happy with the cavalier attitude of contributor Isiah Thomas toward some prep work. The beaming Bad Boy can display all of the brotherly independence he wants and put it on his mantelpiece right next to his 1992 Dream Team gold medal. (Not.) ...

WGN-TV returns to the soccer play-by-play business this spring with a 24-game package featuring the Chicago Fire of deep-pocketed owner Joe Mansueto. The series begins March 7 at New England and will remind older lederhosen of way back in 1967 when Jack Brickhouse initiated coverage of Willy Roy and the brand spanking new Chicago Spurs. ...

And with an eye to Chicago's NBA community going from All-Star Weekend back to the tweedle-Dee of the Bulls, Jon Freier quipped: "It's like having Lin-Manuel Miranda do two nights of 'Hamilton' and then community theater returning to the playhouse."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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