Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Part 2 - An Interview with USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan

Today is the second of a two part interview with USA Today sports columnist and author Christine Brennan.....

Q6: After reading your book, it is clear that you love sports. However, being a professional journalist, has there ever been a sporting event that you were covering that you got caught up in the moment and found yourself pulling for a certain team or player?
CB: Sure, at times you may be pulling for someone. We are human beings. A lot of Olympic events where you are sitting watching someone compete and you’re thinking of all the hard work and years and years that has gone into this, you find your heart beating a little faster. It’s not that you are cheering for them but you are aware of the moment. You know how important it is to them. I’m not cheering or hollering or standing up giving an ovation. Of course there is no cheering in the pressbox. But inside, sure you are aware of what it means to someone who is competing.

For instance at the Albertville Olympics in 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi, who I barely knew, I was watching her skate the long program and I remember thinking this is a big deal for her. And, you want to see the athlete capture the moment. You don’t want to see these athletes fall or miss a jump. Even her competitor Midori Ito from Japan, I was thinking the same thing. They are athletes out there and you want to see them have a great battle. You don’t cheer, but you know the importance of it.

Q7: Sports fans always hear the negatives about sports, from Barry Bonds to Pacman Jones to Chris Henry. What are some good things about professional sports?
CB: Most people in pro sports are doing the right thing. Peyton Manning seems to do most things the right way. At this year’s Super Bowl, I watched him out on the field two hours before the game practicing with some of his receivers just in grey sweats. He’s the hardest working man is show business. That was neat to see that. He seems to have his head together. There are so many of these athletes like Andre Agassi and Mia Hamm with all of their foundations and good work in helping others. I think we often don’t hear about the good partially because bad things are newsworthy. Off the top of my head, those are a few athletes who are doing good, but there are many many more who are doing positive things.

I just heard from a friend of mine about Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs about his literacy program in San Antonio. He’s going to all sorts of schools and providing books to read. That is just an example of someone who I never met, but heard about his efforts through a publicist who works with him. I wish there was more opportunity to hear about things like that but the reality is that we only have so much space and news is news.

Q8: You have interviewed so many people. But who would be your dream interview?
CB: To really get inside Tiger Woods head would be great. I’ve been at many many press conferences with him but it would be great to really know what he thinks. Tiger is just such an interesting person and he is a big part of our world and culture today. If I could go back in time, it would be so fascinating to get a chance to talk to Jesse Owens and Adolph Hitler about the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I mean Hitler was an awful awful man. But to know what they were thinking after Owens won would be fascinating.

I think the era of steroids is such a prevalent thing in our society and I do believe strongly it would be valuable to get a chance to talk to Barry Bonds in which he would be totally honest. I’m guessing he would never speak to me because I have been so critical of him – and that’s fine, I don’t care at all about that. If he would be honest, I would love to know the whole story about performance enhancing drugs. I think this is awful, this march to the homerun record is embarrassing. This is the most important number in sports.

Q9: Talking about Bonds, I always tell my friend who is a Pirate fan that Pittsburgh should honor him by retiring his number because when he played for the Pirates he allegedly was never under suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. What do you think?
CB: It’s too bad because the Pittsburgh era was clearly the era when he was not allegedly cheating. But no, I would say based on what we saw with Mark McGwire that he (Bonds) should not be honored even though he may not have cheated in Pittsburgh - he is an alleged cheater now. He is such a terrible influence on our children. That is the part I always look at with athletes. Three to four percent of high school seniors take steroids and that is extraordinary because the Olympics is less than one percent. So we are talking about an incredible number of high school students. I don’t think we should honor him (Bonds). I don’t think Pittsburgh should honor him. I think he is awful.

Personally I hope he never makes it to the Hall of Fame or any type of honor. That’s just my feeling. That also comes from covering the Olympics with Ben Johnson. They kicked him out of the sport.

Q10: Finally, before I let you go, I have to ask you about the 1969 Michigan-Ohio State game. I read in your book how your dad took you and your brother and sister to that game. As a Michigan fan, what was it like that day?
CB: It was fantastic. I was just 11-years-old and it was just incredible to me. At the time, I don’t think I realized the magnitude of the game until after the fact. It was my first Michigan-Ohio State game and my first Big Ten game. To think it was one of the greatest games ever played; how lucky was I to be there for it. Now looking back on it, I have much more of a sense of what it was. To see that great upset. To see Michigan beat the great Ohio State Buckeyes – a team that was defending national champions, a team that had not lost in 1968 or 69. And a little upstart Michigan team beat them was just fantastic. I have to say that was one of those moments that encouraged me to continue to love sports. When I look back, I had so many positive influences that I was lucky to have. Mostly my father, and my mom too, and their encouragement of sports at a time when girls were not encouraged to play sports. I was fortunate to go to those Michigan and Toledo games and have that positive experience.

Once again I want to thank Christine...she was a great interview and I appreciate the time she provided to conduct the interview....

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