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Posted: Tuesday November 4, 2008 11:05AM; Updated: Tuesday November 4, 2008 1:41PM

Presidential candidates Obama, McCain stump on sports

Story Highlights

Obama's sports passion is basketball; McCain is more of a boxing fan

McCain's favorite all-time athlete is Hall of Famer and war hero Ted Williams

Obama admires Arthur Ashe and loves to watch his own daughter play soccer

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By now we all know where presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain stand on the political issues of the day. The two senators took time from their exhaustive campaign schedules to share their views on the major sports issues of our time with SI.com's Arash Markazi.

SI: How concerned are you with the use of performing-enhancing drugs in sports at all levels and what if anything should be the role of the next president in solving this problem?
 
Barack Obama
There's no question that the use of performance-enhancing drugs is a serious problem. And at its core is the idea of sportsmanship. The idea that you can compete fiercely without playing dirty or taking shortcuts is something a president can project. When it comes to setting and enforcing the rules that regulate performance-enhancing drugs, I think the president and congress should help by setting the tone on steroids. But in the end, I think parents have to instill a sense of fairness in their kids from a young age.
 
John McCain
Very concerned. There is a health crisis taking place among our youth that will show up in doctors' offices a decade from now. The Internet has allowed easy purchase of substances that otherwise would be difficult to obtain, and it's not just young athletes, but also boys and girls motivated by vanity. I became involved with this issue as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee because I was concerned that our professional and Olympic athletes were engaging in anticompetitive behavior and serving as poor role models for our youth. The next president must lead a national education effort designed to ensure that our kids are aware of the adverse health consequences associated with using performance-enhancing substances.
 
 
 
SI: College football is the only big-time American sport that does not have some kind of playoff system to decide its champion. Are you in favor of a playoff or do you like the Bowl system the way it is?
 
Barack Obama
I've always believed that we should have a playoff system in college football. I'm not sure who came up with the idea for the BCS formula we use today, but to borrow a phrase I've used over and over on the campaign trail, it's time for a change. I'm tired of all the confusion and controversy that boils over at the end of every college football season, and I think an eight-team playoff would make a lot of sense.
 
John McCain
Ideally it would be great to have a college football playoff system, but practically I'm not sure it will ever occur. There are a lot of factors involved with making this happen, including school schedules, potential for injuries and others. But if it doesn't happen, I think the regular season in college football and conference championships, not to mention the bowl games, are terrific. Some in Congress have seen fit to get involved with this issue, but I do not believe it is a federal responsibility unless there is some fundamental unfairness or anticompetitive conduct at issue.
 
 
 
SI: To what extent should pro athletes consider themselves as role models, and what should the pro leagues do to curb criminal behavior among their players?
 
Barack Obama
In an ideal world, kids should look up to their mom or their dad -- someone who can be there every day as an example of how to act on and off the field. But I know not everyone is surrounded by these kinds of people. I grew up without my dad in the house, and so I looked up to athletes like Arthur Ashe, whose influence went beyond sports, and who conducted himself with respect and dignity in a way that showed he cared about other people. That made a big difference to me growing up, and I'm sure some of today's athletes will have a similar impact on our children. Professional athletes don't always make the perfect role models. It's a very big responsibility, and one I hope these athletes take very seriously.
 
John McCain
As I alluded to in my earlier answer on drug use, professional athletes are role models. Period. Like it or not, our nation's kids look to professional athletes as role models and take cues from their actions, both good and bad. As such, like all Americans, professional athletes should conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate and within the law. I think professional sports leagues have all the incentive in the world to ensure that their players conduct themselves properly and lawfully on and off the field. It is only their brand that suffers when a player fails in this respect. That said, I have called, and will continue to call, upon sports leagues to hold their players to the highest ethical standards.
 
 
 
SI: President Nixon had a bowling lane at the White House. President Eisenhower had a putting green, and President Bush has a Tee-Ball game on the South Lawn. What sporting traditions are you looking forward to bringing to the White House?
 
Barack Obama
Sports have always been a central part of my life. Growing up, I learned about competition and teamwork on the basketball court, and these days I try to get in a pickup game whenever I can. If I'm fortunate enough to move into the White House, I'd consider putting in a basketball court.
 
John McCain
I've always been an avid fan of boxing, as you may know, and I'd like to find a way to invite some of these incredible young athletes to visit the White House, many of whom come from lower-income and disadvantaged environments. The Tee-Ball games may also live on as I think they have been terrific experiences for the kids who have been fortunate enough to participate. That said, when the country is running record deficits, I believe that it would be inappropriate for the president to spend taxpayers' dollars on luxury improvements to the White House.
 
 
 
SI: Who is your favorite athlete to watch, past and present? What is the most exciting sporting event that you have ever attended?
 
Barack Obama
I've seen plenty of memorable games over the years and watched more than a few legendary athletes in action. But my favorite athlete is my daughter Malia. This fall, I tried to catch as many of her soccer games as I could. And whenever I couldn't be there in person, I made sure to get the scores and highlights over the phone. I'm a huge White Sox, Bulls and the Bears fan, but there is no place I'd rather be on a fall night than sitting in a folding chair watching Malia's team in action.
 
John McCain
Ted Williams and Curt Schilling. Ted Williams was a hero because of what he did on and off the field. Obviously a naturally gifted player, both at the plate and in the field, but what is remarkable about Ted Williams is that he, like many in his generation, left what they were doing to serve this country in World War II. And despite his time in the service, Ted Williams returned to baseball and performed at a Hall of Fame level. One of my favorite athletes to watch, who is currently playing, has to be Curt Schilling. Like Ted Williams, I admire Curt on and off the field. He also is a gifted athlete who I think will make the Hall of Fame, and he also is one who speaks his mind regardless of the consequences and I really admire that. I also think that he's an incredible writer about baseball. His blog, 38 Pitches, reflects some of the best writing out there on the subject. The most exciting sport event I've ever attended would have to be the 2001 World Series between the Diamondbacks and Yankees which took place in the aftermath of that terrible day in September. I was fortunate enough to attend many of the games and the series was quite a thrill, much to the dismay of my friend New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
 
 

 
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