The last time we had a sportscaster as President ? A fellow who was Governor of California


Chicago Tribune

Picking ESPN over C-SPAN

Imagine a former TV sports reporter being a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Imagine someone running our country whose first dream in life was to be a sportswriter.

Would this be a good thing?

The initial, almost urgent thought is that knowing your way around a press box buffet line is not proper training for dealing with the likes of North Korea, though you haven’t stared down evil until you’ve eaten hamburgers cooked to NHL puck specifications. And possessing the ability to craft the sentence “Smitty Jones twirled a one-hit gem Friday” will not solve the education problem in this country.

But there are positives to being a sports media creature, too, as Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin surely knows. The fact that she worked briefly as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV in Anchorage and had earlier wanted to be a sportswriter automatically says a few things about her.

First of all, because she graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism, she almost certainly can spell the word “potato.” So I’d say she’s ready.

Second of all—and this is critical—most of us in this business can’t balance our checkbooks. It’s why we went into journalism—not because of any altruistic ideas of saving the world or rooting corruption out of government. We didn’t want to take math in college.

You can view that as a negative if you like, but if something unfortunate were to befall presidential candidate John McCain and Palin became commander-in-chief, she might let her inner sportswriter take over and allow her husband to have at the national budget. How could it be worse for the current economy?

There is, of course, a YouTube video of the former Sarah Heath anchoring a sports broadcast for KTUU. It’s Alaska, so the lead story that night was the Iditarod dog-sled race, and it was 1988, so Palin’s big hair looked positively Mt. McKinley-ish. But she seemed knowledgeable about sports, and that shouldn’t go unappreciated by those of us who think our leaders should understand the scandal of, say, the designated hitter rule in the un- American League.

A story making the rounds in cyberspace is that Palin named one of her daughters Bristol because she loved ESPN, which is based in Bristol, Conn. Not true, Tom Kizzia, a writer for the Anchorage Daily News, told me Sunday. Bristol Bay is in southwest Alaska, and it’s the biggest wild salmon run in the world. It’s where the Palin family does its commercial fishing. Seventeen-year-old Bristol Palin was named for that area.

Sarah Palin does, however, have a son named Wrigley Fields. Oh wait, wrong story.

The bios do say she wanted to work at ESPN, and that puts her in company with about 100 million other people in this country, 99.5 million of whom are male. Perhaps it’s better she didn’t follow the ESPN career path. You can picture Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin turning to an aide and saying, “This ‘Booya’—what does she mean by it?”

(Speaking of ESPN, there’s a decent chance Chris Berman will make the unfortunate decision on election night to utter the sentence, “McCain and Palin could … go … all … the … way!”)

Palin has a solid sports background, which is a plus in the full-contact world of government work.

Ronald Reagan broadcast Cubs games for WHO Radio in Des Moines, and he went on to become the Great Communicator. Richard Nixon wanted to be a sportswriter, and he went on to … OK, bad example.

Palin was the starting point guard on her high school basketball team, which won a state championship in Alaska. She looks like she probably could have taken Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to the hoop, if not post him up.

And she was a coach/manager when her kids were playing youth hockey.

So how does this translate into an effective vice president or, if the worst happens, president?

We reporters regularly face athletes and coaches who ignore us. A vice president very quickly gets used to being ignored by important people too. So, again, Palin is ready.

While the president is off jetting around the world, the vice president is often left to attend the 4-H Fair in Omaha, which Palin would understand is like covering a symposium on the tax implications of the Great Alaska Shootout while the Super Bowl is going on.

It all sounds laughable, but it could have been worse for Palin and us. She could have taken the normal path to politics. She could have been a lawyer.

As for Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate, he once co-sponsored a bill that would have made the NFL pay more for new stadium construction rather than put the burden on local municipalities.

On second thought, forget Palin. Biden for VP! Or sports columnist!

One Response

  1. “A story making the rounds in cyberspace is that Palin named one of her daughters Bristol because she loved ESPN, which is based in Bristol, Conn. Not true, Tom Kizzia, a writer for the Anchorage Daily News, told me Sunday. Bristol Bay is in southwest Alaska, and it’s the biggest wild salmon run in the world. It’s where the Palin family does its commercial fishing. Seventeen-year-old Bristol Palin was named for that area.”

    I also assumed she was named after Bristol Bay, until I read an article in an online business journal dated some time BEFORE Sarah Palin was VP pick. It stated that her daughter Bristol WAS named after the Bristol CT town where ESPN is located. I read that business article on Sat, Aug 30 2008.

    Yesterday, I went to find it again (to see if that info was based on an interview with the Palins) and it appears to have been scrubbed. Couldn’t find it even using the same google search terms with which I’d originally found it. Have made extensive new searches on Google for it with no luck. Very odd.

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