CHICAGO – Just a few short hours before Election Day 2012, President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney made a late appeal to viewers of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
While the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles paused for halftime, and the candidates themselves were still on the road holding final swing state rallies, both men appeared in pre-taped interviews with host Chris Berman during the network’s half-time show.
Comparing politics to sports, Berman asked Obama how he planned to “repeat” – one of the most difficult feats for a “championship” team.
“It has to do with not getting distracted, by your own hype, or the critics,” Obama said. “It’s interesting, political reporters are a lot like sports reporters. And, you lose a game, and you’re a bum. You win a game, you’re a God.
“Just like in sports, in politics, we’re all human. We make mistakes. Sometimes we perform well,” he said, seeming to allude to the 2012 presidential debates. “But the key is just to stay focused on what it is that you’re doing.”
Berman asked Romney about the most valuable lesson he could apply in the Oval Office he learned from shepherding the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. He cited a greater appreciation for the human spirit.
“I think most people watch the Olympics not just because of the interest in the sport itself. I mean how many people were avid fans of women’s bobsled for instance before the Olympics? But they watch the bobsled event because they get to see the character of human beings if you will… the crucible of sport,” he said.
“It’s a place where you see what is beneath the surface of an individual human being and you come away inspired.”
Both men were also eager to show off their “everyman” by talking casually about professional sports and their affinity for American football.
“You don’t go to any place where folks don’t talk about some football,” said Obama, a loyal Chicago Bears fan, reflecting on his weeks on the campaign trail. (He said his team has a good chance of winning the Super Bowl this season.)
Obama also jokingly took credit for the new college football playoff system. “This was something I said needed to get done, and this is the kind of change you can believe in,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.
Romney revealed his pro-football loyalties lie with the New England Patriots, joking to Berman that he takes “personal, full responsibility for their two super bowl wins (in 2003 and 2004), as well as the Red Sox winning the World Series (in 2004).” Romney was governor between 2003 and 2007.
“Hey look as a Governor; you get blamed for everything that goes wrong. You might as well get the credit for what goes right,” he joked with a grin.
The election eve interviews underscored the view of both campaigns about the importance of the ESPN crowd, particularly in the battleground states, as a pivotal swing constituency in Tuesday’s race.