I peel out the whole 60-page football section, an annual delight, from my copy of the paper. (This paper is actually today’s and Thursday’s; Tropical Storm Fay has given us a screwy week here in Florida, and this is one of many disruptions.)
First off, Obama’s on the front page, what would be called G1, the page you peel back to open the paper; McCain’s on G8. The pages are identical designwise, except for the photographs.
And those photographs? McCain looks like he’s presenting the football (which is a weirdly patriotic concoction and looks to me like a painted or stylized Arena Football ball rather than an NFL or NCAA edition) like you would present a baby to a camera, while Obama’s looking ready to throw it, even if he does have it in a southpaw grip. To me, a Gator fan, that grip, like Tim Tebow’s lefty style, is comfortingly familiar; advantage, Obama.
G2 has Q & As with both candidates. Obama rooted for the Steelers as a kid in Hawaii, while McCain says “I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, so I rooted for the Redskins, naturally, but I also liked the Colts and the Packers, coached by Vince Lombardi.” (Wasn’t that about a fifth of the NFL back then?) He adds youthful Cowboys fandom because of Roger Staubach, but mentions that “Now, naturally, I have to root against them,” apparently because he’s the Senator from Arizona. He refers to the “They were who we thought they were game,” though Dennis Green’s quote is added in brackets by the editor rather than spoken by McCain.
McCain also speaks smartly on the healing power of sports after 9/11, calling Rudy Giuliani’s appearance at the 2001 World Series a “special moment” and says U.S. soldiers at war are “probably more focused on the Manny Ramirez trade or the upcoming NFL season than anything else.” (Uh.)
Obama’s set of questions is more directed to the sports fan in him. He says he would’ve wanted Brett Favre as a Bear without explicitly putting that sentence together, calling him “a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” and adds, “I do feel better that the Bears don’t have to play him twice a year anymore.” And he wisely punts on picking either Gale Sayers or Walter Payton, saying “I’d ask Lovie Smith to switch to the Wing-T and play them both.”
Obama also says there are “bigger challenges” than the oversight of the NFL for government to tackle, and says, when asked about Tony Dungy, who he calls “a terrific role model,” becoming the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl by beating the Bears, “I’m a Bears fan, and I wanted my team to win the Super Bowl.”
Also on G2: the explanation of the logistics of the cover shoots. The Sentinel spent about 15 minutes with each candidate, and caught Obama after a rally at Orlando-area Freedom High on August 1st and McCain at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, the next day.
Interesting, but expected: “We set up the press run so that each candidate appears on the front of half the sections and the back of half the sections.” (In other words: it’s not always Obama on the front.)
G3 is a Mike Bianchi column comparing football and politics. Yawn. Let’s move on.
G4 and G5 are the centerfold pages, with more quotes from an Obama email (“Coach Ditka still has a 100 percent approval rate in Chicago,” and a quick review of the Bears’ future that mentions Rex Grossman by first name only and comments on his Gator heritage, but makes no mention of Kyle “Neckbeard” Orton) and McCain (“The worst fans are usually mediocre high school athletes, and that was me when it came to football” and “Matt Leinart will come around” are his big hits.)
But maybe the telling bit: Obama on fantasy football. “Most folks are going to be going back and forth between LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson. I think I gotta go with LaDainian – if only because I don’t want him on anyone else’s team.” (Does this mean Obama plays fantasy football? Discuss.)
Elsewhere on the centerfold: a rehash of Gerald Ford’s athletic career, the history of presidents and football in brief, with mentions of Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, JFK, and Reagan as George Gipp, and the roads to the Super Bowl and BCS Championship Game through the prism of politics. As gimmicks go, this one may have been better in theory.
David Whitley’s got a typically goofy piece on G6 that’s the Declaration of Independence, football style. It’s decent; read it here if you want.
G7’s just the Sentinel‘s credits and thanks to the campaigns, advertisers, and oft-forgotten SIDs and media relations who helped out with getting the preview section all the access it deserves. (I still look forward to this day; I have since the section started.)
And I end by transitioning back to the other live blog I’m doing as an Obama ad plays, and sharing the cover’s quote with you: “Whether Barack Obama or John McCain wins the presidential election, there’s no doubt that football will still rule the nation.”
I hope this was interesting.