Veteran newsman Dan Rather has sports roots -- a Texas childhood spent worshipping at the holy shrine of Football, and a brief career as a baseball play-by-play announcer.
This was more than enough to convince Page 2's Jim Caple that it might be a good idea to hit the CBS anchor with 10 Burning Questions.
1. Page 2: You stopped by the booth to offer football commentary during the Cowboys-Giants game in November, and the reviews were quite good. Did you enjoy it, and was broadcasting ever a career goal?
Rather: I enjoyed it immensely. I'm not sure I can do it again, but I would love to if time permitted.
It was never a career goal, with the possible exception of when I was young and out of work and questioning whether I could get a job reporting. There was a play-by-play man by the name of Kern Tipps then, who was the premier play-by-play man for Southwest Conference football, and he was marvelous. I thought that maybe I could make a living doing that, too, but then I got a reporting job, and it sort of passed.
I did do play-by-play for Houston football and basketball, and the Buffaloes, who were Houston's AAA baseball team. That was the highest level I ever did for baseball, and I did a good deal of play-by-play. I always dreamed of being Ed Murrow or Ernie Pyle, but there was a time when I thought I might have to set my sights lower.
2. What was your signature home-run call?
Rather: Going, going, gone.
That's not very imaginative.
Rather: I tried "Bye-Bye baseball," and the sponsor didn't like it. I never got that creative. But I do remember how I once described a little right-hander by the name of Dave Jolley. I said he was taking his warm-up "pisses" on the mound.
We also recreated games and --
|Dan Rather once considered sports broadcasting as the fallback choice for his career.|
You recreated games? Did you ever discuss that with Reagan?
Rather: I swapped notes with Reagan about it one time, and we agreed it was one of the most difficult things you could do.
Anyway, I remember the Buffalos were on the road one time, and we were recreating it in the studio, and there was a close play at the plate. I was in that phase where I was trying to use baseball lingo -- I would use wheels instead of legs, like that -- I'm not proud of it, but that's what I did. And so after the center fielder, Jim Delsing, made this terrific throw, I say, "The runner breaks, Delsing takes two steps, he makes a perfect throw, and he's out at the plate." I paused. And then I said, "What a hose on that Delsing."
My color man, Frank McGee, fell off the stool laughing. I couldn't continue. I was totally humiliated.
3. Which sports broadcaster do you like listening to the most, and feel free to name as many ESPN reporters as you can?
Rather: I won't play that game. I like everybody on ESPN and CBS. I will say that the level of sports broadcasting, particularly play-by-play, is incredible high right now -- and I know how hard it is to sustain that level of excellence. I marvel at their consistency.
4. Who would you rather sit with in the press box -- Jill Arrington, Christiane Amanpour or John Madden? And remember, you're under oath, sir.
|The art of recreating a baseball game was a common bond for Rather and former President Ronald Reagan.|
Rather: Christiane. If the game got dull, we could talk about other things. Besides, she's beautiful inside and out, and she's a good friend.
5. Which superpower would you choose -- the strength of 100 men, the ability to fly or turn invisible?
Rather: Invisible, which I feel like becoming whenever I tell the Delsing story.
Everyone picks invisible. Sneaky reporters.
Rather: That's probably it. If I was invisible, I could slip into one of those rooms where Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell are planning and see what they're really doing, instead of relying on Ari Fleischer.
Most guys say they want to be able to sneak into the women's locker room.
Rather: I'm too old for that.
6. What do you think Edward R. Murrow would think of broadcast news before and after Sept. 11?
Rather: I think he would be very proud of broadcast news since then, and very worried that it would go back to the way it was before Sept. 11, where you have the Hollywood-ization of the news and not enough foreign news.
What would he think of those news marquees -- America At War, America Strikes Back, etc.
Rather: He would hate them. And he would tell us that we should drop them ... and if we didn't, he would sue us."
What do you think of them?
Rather: I'll take the Fifth.
7. Immediately after Sept. 11, people described the attacks as "our Pearl Harbor." Three months later, do you feel Americans have made the sort of sacrifices and changes in lifestyle for that comparison to be valid?
|Rather wouldn't mind hanging out in the press box with Christiane Amanpour.|
Rather: I still think the comparison is valid, but you make a good point. I don't think Americans have changed their lives and sacrificed the way we had to in WWII. The difference is, Franklin Roosevelt asked Americans to make sacrifices and we did. And in this situation -- and don't make this a critical comment -- the president said not everyone needs to make sacrifices, that we should go on planes, that we should go to Disney World, that we should get back to normal.
But as a cataclysmic event, it definitely was this generation's Pearl Harbor. It has required a different response so far, and it might eventually require the same sort of sacrifices as in WWII.
8. Back to sports -- were you as wild about football growing up as most boys in Texas? Did you play?
Rather: Yes. I grew up in Texas and not liking football wasn't an option. If you were not physically impaired, and sometimes even if you were, you had no choice but to strive to be a football hero. It was OK not to become Doak Walker or Kyle Rote or Bobby Layne, but it was not OK not to try.
9. Who were your sports heroes?
Rather: My all-time favorite player was my brother, Don, who captained Rice in 1959. He was a tackle, played both ways, offense and defense.
After your years in journalism, do you think there is anyone in sports who should be viewed as a hero?
|"Who could not admire John Elway on The Drive?"|
Rather: I try to be careful, especially in wartime, when using the term 'hero,' but there are plenty of people in sports I admire. Who could not admire John Elway on The Drive? Or Joe Montana in the Super Bowl? Or Jerry Rice making a catch in the back of the end zone? But I also tend to admire interior linemen, the guards, tackles and centers, for the same reason I admire baseball catchers. They're the hardest working people.
10. If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be?
Rather: Well, among those already gone, it's hard to go wrong with Moses, Jesus and Mohammad. I wouldn't mind having dinner with Michaelangelo and Shakespeare. Among the living, there are so many to choose from. The only thing I know for sure is my list would exclude Osama bin Laden.
|The one guy who definitely wouldn't be invited to dine with Rather is Osama bin Laden.|