ESPN's Stuart Scott Misses Opportunities as He Interviews Barack Obama
In an interview that was intercut with clips of Scott (wearing Kareem-style goggles) playing one-on-one basketball with Obama, Scott missed an opportunity to conduct some serious journalism and mostly peppered Obama with easy questions that made for simple answers.
Journalists don't have to be attack dogs every time they talk to candidates, but a one-on-one interview with a person seeking the nation's highest office ought to be more substantive than, "If your vice president had to be an athlete, who would you pick?" which was Scott's first question. (Obama picked Walter Payton.)
The interview (which first aired tonight and will re-air on Tuesday and Wednesday) did include more substantive questions, including one about whether President Bush should have boycotted the Olympic opening ceremony and one asking Obama's opinions of Congressional hearings on steroids. But neither question really challenged Obama to take a tough stand; in both cases his answers were fairly formulaic politician sound bites.
From my experience, fans usually don't want politics mixed in with their sports news, so ESPN was in a bit of a no-win situation when it decided to have an interview with Obama. But I applaud the Worldwide Leader for making the decision to feature an interview with a presidential candidate on SportsCenter. I just wish it would have assigned a journalist who would ask meaningful questions that probe important issues at the intersection of politics and sports, and not someone like Scott, who hugged Obama as the two of them walked off the basketball court.
Scott's interview has now put ESPN in a difficult position: In order to be fair, ESPN should also interview Republican candidate John McCain. I asked an ESPN spokesman whether McCain would be interviewed and was told that ESPN has requested an interview with McCain but that the McCain campaign has not gotten back to them with a date for the interview. If a McCain interview happens, how will ESPN approach it? If they don't give McCain a softball interview, they will be accused of favoring Obama.
ESPN has many solid journalists on its staff who would be up to the task of interviewing Obama or McCain, including Outside the Lines host Bob Ley and any of the E:60 newsmagazine correspondents, Tom Farrey, Rachel Nichols, Lisa Salters, Jeremy Schaap and Michael Smith. That Scott was chosen for such an important task represents a missed opportunity.