Transcripts of McCain, Obama interviews

Updated: November 4, 2008, 3:00 PM ET
ESPN.com

The following are edited transcripts of Monday's interviews with Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama on the eve of the 2008 presidential election. ESPN's Chris Berman conducted the interviews. Note: the Obama interview was conducted before the announcement of his grandmother's death.

John McCain

Chris Berman: Joining us now is Senator John McCain and you are very kind to join us on Monday Night Football, Senator. Thank you.

Sen. John McCain: Glad to be with you, Chris.

Berman: I know you are a big football fan, so this is kind of up your alley, isn't it?

McCain: Well, yeah. I was a mediocre junior varsity linebacker and so I have the greatest respect and admiration for those who display these incredible skills on the football field.

Berman: Well, we'll get to football in a moment. Senator, it's been a long campaign. Historically, maybe the longest. Looking back on it, what did you learn about yourself?

McCain: You know, I didn't learn a great deal, Chris, that I didn't already know except that I think that, as in football, you can't get high and you can't get low in a long season. You've got to just push and slog one game at a time. And in football it's one Sunday at a time -- or Monday Night Football -- and in politics it's one primary and then one aspect of a campaign and one election after another. You've got to put one foot in front of the other one and don't ever get discouraged.

Berman: Senator, you've moved it yourself over to my side of the tracks. Senator, if you could change one thing in sports, what would that be?

McCain: I'd take significant action to prevent the spread and use of performance-enhancing substances. I think it's a game we're going to be in for a long time. What I mean by that is that there is somebody in a laboratory right now trying to develop some kind of substance that can't be detected and we've got to stay ahead of it. It's not good for the athletes. It's not good for the sports. It's very bad for those that don't do it, and I think it can attack the very integrity of all sports going all the way down to high school.

Berman: Amen. Senator, what's the best piece of advice that you've received from the sports world? It could be at any time.

McCain: Chris, I'd have to go all the way back to high school. I had a football coach who was a football star himself. He was in Patton's tank corps. He was my English teacher. He taught me lessons about life and took a very, very immature young man who was kind of a rebel without a cause and at least gave me a glimpse of life and literature. And the guy was my inspiration then and he's my inspiration to this day. I think the most important lesson he told me was that you've always got to do the honorable thing and even when nobody's looking because maybe nobody will know, but you'll know.

Berman: When Americans go to the polls tomorrow, Senator, and they read your name: Senator John McCain, what's the one personal quality that you want them to think about?

McCain: I want them to think: He. Could. Go. All. The. Way ... To the White House. [laughs]. And even though some pundits have written me off, that's why they play the game. [laughs] I want them to know, Chris, that I've always put my country first. They may disagree with me from time to time on a specific issue but I've always had the great honor to put my country first and what an incredible experience it is for a guy like me who played JV football and boxed and wrestled, all of it not very good, to now be one step away from the Presidency of the United States. It's an incredible ride. I'm humbled and honored and pleased people know I'll always put my country first.

Berman: I think we've known that for a long time, Senator. If, as president, you could attend just one sports event a year, what would it be?

McCain: You know, that's a very, very tough question. But I think it's probably ... I know this is going to make people angry in other sports ... but it'd probably be the Super Bowl. But there are a lot of other events. I watch sports all the time, especially the last few months. My wife Cindy says I would watch the thumb-suckers play the bed-wetters. I watch all sports and I enjoy all sports. It's been great fun in my life and a great diversion. So I guess it would have to be the Super Bowl because it's become the transcendent event worldwide, not just nationwide.

Berman: Well, maybe, just maybe, your Arizona Cardinals that are in first place by -- a mile at this point -- maybe that's your omen for the Super Bowl and for tomorrow. So good luck on Election Day and thanks so much for spending time with us, Senator McCain.

McCain: As far as the Cardinals are concerned, hope springs eternal in the human breast. Thank you, Chris.

Barack Obama

Chris Berman: Joining us now is Senator Barack Obama. And a hearty welcome to Monday Night Football.

Sen. Barack Obama: Thank you so much. This is the highlight -- at least among my staff -- of the entire year, being on Monday Night Football.

Berman: Well I know you are a football fan so you can finally relax a little, right?

Obama: Absolutely. Well, not too much, because [Chicago Bears quarterback] Kyle Orton just got hurt, so I'm going to have to see how my Bears do over the next couple of weeks.

Berman: Well, we'll get to that in a moment, don't worry. Senator, it's been a long campaign, maybe the longest in history. Looking back on it, what did you learn about yourself?

Obama: Well, you know what I learned about, that I think was positive, was that I don't get too high when things are going well and I don't get too low when things are going tough. And I think that has helped me and the organization stay steady. You know, we just try to run our game plan and don't get distracted too much. And I think that it has served us well and, hopefully, if I should have the honor of serving as president, that will serve us well at a time when things are pretty tough. We've got a big economic problem out here. We've got two wars that are taking place. And hopefully the same kind of organization, the same kinds of steadiness, I can bring to bear in the White House.

Berman: Senator, let's bring it into our arena for a moment. If you could change one thing in sports, what would that be?

Obama: I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. You know, I am fed up with these computer rankings, and this and that and the other. Get eight teams. The top eight teams right at the end. You've got a playoff. Decide on a national champion.

Berman: You could probably make that happen. What is the best piece of advice that you've received from the sports world? It could be any time in your life.

Obama: You know, I think the best advice I got was when I was playing basketball in high school. And I was really somebody who had learned the game on the playgrounds. I was playing for a coach who was cut from the Bobby Knight cloth and I kind of rebelled against him a little bit. And at some point he said to me, 'Look, this is not about you. It's about the team.' And it took me a while, I think, to really understand that but that's how I've approached the work that I've done in politics ever since ... is to say to myself, this is not about me. It's about people who are losing their homes or losing their jobs or trying to figure out how to retire with dignity or respect. That if you stay focused outside yourself, you get your ego out of the way, then you end up, I think, being able to do a better job.

Berman: Senator, when Americans go to the polls tomorrow and they read your name, Senator Barack Obama, what's the one personal quality that you would want them to think about?

Obama: That I'm going to fight for them. You know I entered into public service very young in my life, right after college. And I think, more than anything, what people need is an advocate in the White House. They need somebody who is thinking about the truck drivers, is thinking about the firefighter, or the cop, or the nurse, or the teacher. Those folks who work hard every day, do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, but have been slipping behind. Their wages have gone down over the last eight years. Their costs, of everything from health care to gas, have gone up. I want to make sure that they know that when I wake up in that White House every single day, I'm thinking about how can I make their lives a little bit better. How can I secure the future for all of our children so that they can live out their dreams. And that's really what this campaign has been all about.

Berman: If, as president, you could attend one sports event a year, what would that be?

Obama: You know, that's a tough one but I've got to say the Final Four. March Madness. I think college basketball, because it's win or you're out, generates more excitement, more upsets, more fun than just about any other sporting event. I love it even though this past year I picked UNC in my pool and that didn't go so well.

Berman: Pools are hard on all of us.

Obama: Although I had a chance to scrimmage with them after the season was over. And, let me tell you, they are big and really fast. And I'm old.

Berman: Thank you for that scouting report. Look, I know you are a big football fan. Your Chicago Bears are in first place. Maybe that's the omen you need for tomorrow. So good luck on election day and, Senator, thank you for spending time with us on Monday Night Football.

Obama: Listen. I'm very grateful. And thanks all. I hope everybody goes out. Whether you are voting for Senator McCain or myself, this is a big election. Make sure your voice is heard.