AN INTERVIEW WITH WOLF BLITZER
E.M. Pio Roda/CNN
This man can talk Ryan Zimmerman, Brendan Haywood and Ford Fraker with equal ease.
Wolf Blitzer anchors a three-hour show every day, has interviewed virtually every politician and newsmaker in the world and has moderated several Presidential debates this year. Perhaps the coolest thing about him, though, is that he's like all of us: a die-hard sports fan (Wizards, Nats, George Washington hoops) who adored baseball as a kid. If you click through, an interview with CNN's Situation Room anchor on the Wizards approaching elimination, AAA baseball, DeShawn Stevenson, and the best sports movies of all-time—among so much more.
The Mag: We'll start with the Wizards. If you had to liken Gilbert Arenas to someone in the arenas you cover—politics, or even journalism—who would it be and why?
"I TIVO The Situation Room."
Wolf Blitzer: Gilbert Arenas is a superstar. He's beloved here in Washington. He's been back, but he's not the same Gilbert we all know and love. I would say, overall, if you compare him to politics, right now he's up there with Barack Obama. In the NBA, he's not there yet; he still has away to go. He's moving up, though. That's Obama in the political arena.
What's it going to take for the Wizards to get to the next level?
Staying healthy. If the Big Three (Arenas, Jamison, Butler) are healthy, and the rest of the players are there, we have some huge potential next year, and years down the road. We could still use one big, huge inside player. A big center or PF. I've been a fan of this team for a long time, dating back to the Bullets days and the Dark Ages. Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan are doing a great job. We're at least making the playoffs now, but we gotta get to the 2nd/3rd round.
You're also a big Nats fan. What are your favorite elements of baseball?
I like the game, the skill of the guys, the courage to stand in there as someone is throwing a ball at them at 100 mph. Over the years, I've gone into batting cages; it can scare you. I actually played baseball in high school, although not well (laughs). I also love the family-oriented nature of the game. I love to see the looks on these little kids' faces when they get to the ballpark. They run up to the dugout and want autographs; they're so excited. It reminds me of when I was growing up in Buffalo. The Buffalo Bisons, a AAA team, was there and we used to go to Opening Day every year. It was AAA, sure, but it was great. The grass was so green. It's the most exciting, thrilling time of your life.
You've been a journalist all over the world . What are the biggest differences in appreciation of sport that you've seen in various places?
The biggest change is how much basketball has taken off, in Europe and other places. It's huge now. It's making tremendous inroads all over the globe. What's nice is, you see a lot of Americans playing over there, and tons of Europeans over here. David Stern and his people deserve tons of credit. The other thing is, every place else, they're obsessed with soccer, and here, we're not.
Any sociological explanation for that?
I'm not sure. It's a good game. I enjoy it, but I don't get into it. I didn't grow up with it. When I was a kid, it was baseball, football, basketball, etc. It wasn't soccer, cricket, rugby. Some of the kids now grow up playing soccer, and maybe they'll become bigger fans.
What are the biggest similarities and differences between what you do for three hours a day and what someone working for our company, like a Chris Berman, does?
Basically, we do the same thing. Chris Berman has gotta be a conductor; he moves everything around. He brings out different points of view, and keeps people honest. When you're doing an interview and someone says something completely ridiculous, you gotta say, "What are you talking about?" I admire Chris Berman for what he does. Sports and news are both hard; you have to know A LOT about A LOT. These days, so many viewers are so connected, if you mess up something, you'll hear about it immediately.
If you look at all the athletes who are considered "good interviews" because they're controversial or quick to say something, maybe like Gilbert ---
Don't fret, Tiger. Wolf Blitzer still respects you.
Or like DeShawn.
(laughs) Yea. What's your take on all that?
All I can say is, LeBron James isn't overrated.
Who are some of the best interviews you've done in that mold?
Two sports guys come to mind: Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson. I go down to the NBA All-Star Game every year, and I interview them both. You never know what they're going to say. For example, Magic is a supporter of Hillary, but he speaks highly of Barack. Charles, you never know what you're gonna get. Good guests and smart guys.
Quick hitters now. What's the best game you've attended in person?
Back in 1995, UMass was No. 1 and coached by Calipari. They came into Smith Center to play George Washington. I had season tickets, so I went. It's a 5,000 seat arena, and President Clinton shows up with Chelsea. GW ends up beating UMass, 78-75. It was a fabulous game, so exciting. The place went crazy.
Who's the best athlete living today?
Tiger. That's an easy one. I think it's funny a guy named "Wolf" likes a guy named "Tiger," too.
If you, Lou Dobbs, John King, Anderson Cooper, and Candy Crowley are playing basketball, who's slotted 1-5 and why?
Anderson's gotta be a guard. I gotta be a guard. Candy and John forwards. Lou Dobbs at the center position.
Any logic to that?
It's basically completely random (laughs). We're filling out a roster and seeing what works.
"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
Your favorite sports movie of all-time?
Oh, there's a couple. A League of Their Own is great. So is Field of Dreams, and Bull Durham. You have to add Rocky. I also love The Natural. It was filmed at the stadium in Buffalo.
Does Animal House count as a sports movie? Because I'd probably add that. And Ferris Bueller's Day Off too.
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