Christine Brennan on choosing a career –
I’ve never worked a day in my life. I am doing what I love, and for the young people out there, boys and girls, men and women, whatever, who are thinking about life and what they’d like to do, if you do what you love, as you know, Andy, Janice, you know, you never work a day in your life.”
A Ockershausen: Hi, this is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town, and we are delighted to have a very, very favorite person, someone who I’ve known for almost 30 years who’s a bulwark of sports writing in America, a very dear friend, Christine Brennan.
Christine Brennan: Andy, it is great to be with you and Janice, who we’ll hear from at some point, right? Janice.
A Ockershausen: It’s her show. I’m here as an interviewer. It’s her show.
Christine Brennan: Of course. You’re just the arm candy. Yes, it’s great to be with you both. Thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.
“It’s a Girl”
A Ockershausen: We were talking about my first encounter was a story I heard from the Washington Redskins, or somebody on the organization, said, “The Washington Post has hired somebody from Miami that’s going to be the beat writer for our team.” I said, “What’s big about that?” He said, “It’s a woman.” I said, “Oh my.” I don’t think they said woman. I think they said, “It’s a girl.”
Christine Brennan: That says something about something.
A Ockershausen: I said, “We’re going to be hearing from that.” The first time we met was at Jerry Smith’s funeral.
Christine Brennan: Jerry Smith’s funeral. It was in ’86.
A Ockershausen: You had been covering the team before that, but we hadn’t met. You’d met all of our staff and everything. I said, “This is not a girl. This is a woman. She knows about this business.” From there on, I was a great admirer of everything you did. I know it was not easy for you.
Christine Brennan: Yeah, it was always fun.
A Ockershausen: … But you came from Miami, where you had trouble down there too with the guys.
Christine Brennan – Trailblazer – Women Sports Reporters in the Locker Room
Christine Brennan: Yeah, though not as much. We’re talking back in the early ’80s.
A Ockershausen: 30 years ago.
Christine Brennan: More than that. ’81 is when I started after Northwestern at the Miami Herald. There were no cellphones and no answering machines and no DVRs. I think Rutherford B. Hayes was President. It seems like that long ago, but I think that that’s important when folks listen to this, Andy, that we are talking about a different time. There are thousands of women covering sports today and everything is fine and there’s equal access in the men’s locker room, equal access in the women’s locker room for men, male reporters. We’re there. We’ve been there for 30 years. Back in the day, you’re absolutely right. The Miami Herald, I covered the Florida Gators for two seasons and the Miami Hurricanes. I did a lot of Miami Dolphins coverage. There was some talk about the locker room. I wasn’t allowed in that Florida Gators football locker room in ’81, but here’s the deal, and this is why you knew things were changing: Don Shula, the great Don Shula, Andy, almost as great as you. Maybe almost as old as you.
A Ockershausen: You know, he played for the Redskins.
Christine Brennan: Right. Oh, I know. There’s a whole history there. Don Shula, one of my heroes as a girl growing up. Now I’m covering his team not as the beat writer, but as a backup writer. I was there a couple times a week and in the locker rooms on Sundays. What he did, here you’ve got a devout Catholic who goes to church every day, who goes to mass every day.
A Ockershausen: Mass. Every day he went to mass.
Don Shula – “You’re going to wear robes”
Christine Brennan: As conservative as you would think anyone could be, who in I believe it was ’82, told his players, “You’re going to wear robes.” He issues terrycloth robes to every player and he said, “That’s it. Women are allowed in the locker room.” If Don Shula could resolve this as simple as that in 1982, why it took some people longer is just amazing to me, but it did. You know me well, and Miami Herald, my sports editor, Paul Anger, come to the Post. Sports editor who hires me, of course, my mentor, dear friend to this day, George Solomon. Both of them great leaders. Hundred percent support for me doing my job.
A Ockershausen: Absolutely. I knew that from George.
Joe Gibbs “Well, we don’t believe women should be in the locker room.”
Christine Brennan: Absolutely, and George hired many more women, as did Paul, including Sally Jenkins and Liz Clark now and many, many others. There were so many of us, and George is just a leader in that area. Anyway, when I come up here and I start covering Washington’s NFL team … As you know, I think the name should change. I think it’s just a bad, racist name, so fine what anyone else thinks. That’s my personal preference to not say it. When I’m starting to cover them and the Post puts me on the beat, Washington Post puts me on the beat, and all of a sudden Joe Gibbs is saying, “Well, we don’t believe women should be in the locker room.” It was a little jarring because I’ve already been in the Dolphins locker room. I’ve covered Super Bowls. I also was so prepared for this from Northwestern undergrad and master’s, season tickets with my dad, the pied piper with season tickets, the greatest dad in the world with Michigan football, University of Toledo football, Detroit Tigers season tickets, Toledo Mud Hens …
A Ockershausen: You were right in the middle of all this at Toledo, right?
Pete Rozelle – All NFL teams had to have equal access for female reporters.
Christine Brennan: Right, so I knew sports so well. I was trained at what I believe, biased as I am, is the best journalism school in the country, so I’m going to be deterred by someone saying, “No, you can’t go in the locker room”? No, and of course I had the Washington Post, and it wasn’t just George. We are talking I walked in the pages of a journalism textbook. It’s Katharine Graham as the publisher. Ben Bradlee is still the editor. Bob Woodward is wandering around the hallways doing his great work and writing books. You’d run into him as you’re walking to the cafeteria. Carl Bernstein would be around on occasion, even though he was no longer there. I had the Washington Post behind me. There was nothing that the Post wasn’t going to do to make sure there would be equality. Sure enough, Pete Rozelle, the commissioner of the National Football League, in 1985 issued an edict saying all teams … This piecemeal aspect of the Dolphins said yes, Washington said no, other people said yes or no … That had to stop. All NFL teams had to have equal access for female reporters as male reporters to do their jobs, which is what this is all about. Get those quotes, get those comments, and get out of the locker room on deadline. They had to have it be equal. That was ’85, and that was right as I was put on the beat.
A Ockershausen: It took you four years to get to that point.
Christine Brennan: Exactly, but that was the first year I was on the beat. The moment I was put on the beat, the cause and effect part was never officially figured out. The NFL never said, “The Washington Post is putting a woman on the beat. We have to make this happen,” but we all think kind of with a wink that that’s why it happened and Pete Rozelle looking to the future, realizing that women were coming out of the woodwork to cover …
A Ockershausen: You’d already been covering sports. You weren’t a cub reporter.
Christine Brennan: Exactly. In the NFL. Right. At this point, I’m …
A Ockershausen: The championship team, may I add, in the Miami Dolphins.
Christine Brennan: Also the Miami Hurricanes, and I was in their locker room. This was college, Andy, and I was in the Hurricanes locker room every day. They go on to win the national title, that first one with Bernie Kosar. This notion that a woman would be somehow a detriment or subversive or whatever some of these old school thinking coaches thought, well hello, the Miami Hurricanes were probably the first team to ever allow a woman in the locker room every day from August to January 2nd, and they won the national title. That took that and threw it out the window.
A Ockershausen: Tells you something.
Christine Brennan on Joe Gibbs
Christine Brennan: Then absolutely, at that point, now I’m in the locker room every day. Just one last thing about Joe Gibbs. I love Joe Gibbs. I loved dealing with him. Class act all the way. It was a delight for me. I think you could make the case the greatest coach in NFL history. I know that’s saying a lot.
A Ockershausen: He’s got a record that proves that.
Christine Brennan: Three Super Bowls, three different quarterbacks.
A Ockershausen: Three different teams.
Christine Brennan: Right. Not a one of those quarterbacks will ever make the Hall of Fame.
A Ockershausen: I understand that.
Christine Brennan: Joe Theismann, Doug Williams …
A Ockershausen: Don’t tell Theismann that.
Christine Brennan: Yeah, it’s our secret. Don’t tell him. Joe, if you’re listening, sorry pal. Doug Williams and then Mark Rypien. Three different quarterbacks. Not a one of them is good enough to be in the Hall of Fame and Joe Gibbs wins Super Bowls with all three, including two strike years. The coach is amazing. To deal with, on the record, he’d get mad about something, he’d call me at home angry about a headline. I said, “Coach,” I’d call him Coach. “You know I don’t write the headlines.” He goes, “I know, I know.” He said, “Will you bring the guy that writes the headlines out here one day and let me talk to him?” Like there was one guy writing the headlines. There was probably 15 people writing headlines. We’d have this conversation. He’d get angry or upset or bring up the point if he had something. Some days, he, of course, was fine. He’d go, “What is your thought?” He would ask me for my opinion, Andy. Who does that?
A Ockershausen: That’s unheard of. Lombardi wouldn’t do that.
Christine Brennan: No way. They’re throwing stuff or whatever.
A Ockershausen: He’s from an old school too.
Christine Brennan: Or George Allen or somebody like that.
A Ockershausen: George is the old school.
Christine Brennan: I was lucky to have this new age, new thinking coach. Gibbs, again, very conservative, very religious, and that’s fine. That’s totally fine. Whatever. The point was that he treated me as an equal. Even though he said, “I don’t want women in the locker room,” he made sure that I was treated fine, and other than Dexter Manley saying, “C’mon over here Chris. I got something to show you,” which I was like, “Yeah right, Dex,” and I kept on walking. That was Dexter and I never took that seriously and I never got within 50 feet of him that day because you got to be smart and not stupid. It’s their terrain, it’s their domain. I’m on their turf, and Dave Butz with some of his nonsense, but the bottom line was there was never a problem because Joe Gibbs and even good old goofy Jack Kent Cooke made sure there would be no problem. That was the class of that organization and no wonder they won all those Super Bowls.
A Ockershausen: It started at the top.
Christine Brennan: It sure did. Sure did.
A Ockershausen: That makes a big difference.
Christine Brennan: That’s how great things were and were fine.
A Ockershausen: I recall being with you at some affair, the quarterback club or something, and you said to me, “We’re going to meet Bernie Kosar. I don’t think he likes me,” or something to that effect.
Christine Brennan: Right, that’s true. Great memory. He didn’t. Remember? He kept running away from me. I was going to go over to say hi to him and then he just kept walking away further and further.
A Ockershausen: He wouldn’t want to talk.
Christine Brennan: He got mad because I wrote one thing in 1983.
A Ockershausen: Touchy.
Christine Brennan: You can say that again. In 1983, and it wasn’t until sometime in the 21st century, I think it was 2005, that we ran into each other and he apologized profusely. 22 years of not speaking over one sentence in a story …
A Ockershausen: Like a child. He was like a child, Bernie Kosar.
Christine Brennan: … In 1983 in the Miami Herald. That’s what’s kind of a shame. It’s kind of funny now that we’re laughing about it, but he was so smart. He was so mature. That’s the reason coach Howard Schnellenberger picked him to be the starting quarterback.
A Ockershausen: He was a great player.
Christine Brennan: He was a great player. Unorthodox as heck, Luis Tiant.
A Ockershausen: He was from Ohio. It all worked.
Christine Brennan: Youngstown Boardman. He’d throw sideways, kind of like Luis Tiant pitching. All arms and legs and his head’s going another way and whatever. He was a winner. That’s what Bernie Kosar was. He was a winner. He had this in his craw. He was furious at me.
A Ockershausen: You knew it was going to happen.
Christine Brennan: That day, I said to you, “There’s no way he’s going to talk to me,” and so you said, “Oh go on, say hi.” I walked towards him and he starts walking away. If you’d plotted our tracks, it was hilarious because then I moved closer, then he moved farther away. We halfway chased each other around the room till I made a full circle. I said, “This is ridiculous.”
A Ockershausen: That’s your guts. You faced him. You got guts.
Christine Brennan: Come on. I love what I’m doing, so how could I not go for it in every way possible?
A Ockershausen: We’re going to take a break here. We’ve had a wonderful time talking to Christine Brennan, and if you’ve been listening, you ain’t heard nothing yet. This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town.
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Announcer: Our Town with Andy Ockershausen.
A Ockershausen: Talking to Christine Brennan, and Christine, I want to go back to where it all started in Ohio and Toledo and how you got so involved in sports. I’ve read about it, but it’s a great story.
Christine Brennan: Andy, I’m very lucky. I had the best dad and mom in the world.
A Ockershausen: They still live in Toledo?
Christine Brennan: They passed away.
A Ockershausen: They both passed away.
Christine Brennan: Yeah, family’s still there. Sister’s there, brother’s there.
A Ockershausen: That’s your roots.
Christine Brennan: Yeah. I still own the family home where we grew up in Ottawa Hills.
A Ockershausen: Is that right? Oh wow.
Christine Brennan: Yep. I go back for Thanksgiving, Christmas. When I’m doing some speeches. I do a lot of charity work.
Growing Up Female in Sports
A Ockershausen: You’re in a hotbed of sports right there in Toledo.
Christine Brennan: Exactly. This is in the ’60s and into the early ’70s. I graduated high school in ’76, when girls were not encouraged to love or play sports. Yet, I had a dad, I’m the oldest of four kids, and my dad, who had been a football player in high school in Chicago, and then went to Drake and played football for a year in Des Moines, then went into the army at the end of World War II, my dad was saying, “Hey, my daughter wants to play sports? Play sports.” My mom jokes I was born size 6X and kept right on growing. I was really tall. I’m the tallest kid in the neighborhood. I’m taller than the boys. They wanted to play sports with me. Every other girl was shooed away. “Get out of here. We don’t want you to play.” Of course, there’s no organized soccer. There’s no tee ball. You just played.
A Ockershausen: In the ’60s, right.
Christine Brennan: Sure. You just played. The kids, you just played in someone’s front yard or down the block or in the field. We would just go play. Goddard Field across from the University of Toledo and I’d be with all the boys and that was it, and me. I was the only girl. I was natural. I was a good athlete, and so they wanted me. They always picked me first to be part of the baseball team or whatever. We’re Mickey Mantle or Al Kaline up to bat. My dad …
A Ockershausen: Kaline Detroit.
Christine Brennan: Yeah, exactly. Close by. My dad, he taught me how to throw the ball properly. The old term “throw like a girl,” which we should retire as a nation because now we’re teaching, of course, all of our daughters to throw the ball properly, so “throw like a girl” is a compliment now with all these millions of girls and women playing sports because of Title IX. The old days, in the ’60s, girls were pushing the ball.
A Ockershausen: They pushed it.
Christine Brennan: My dad wouldn’t tolerate that for any of his daughters, much less his son, so I knew how to fire the ball and throw it and cock it behind my arm and throw it. I never threw like a girl, even though of course that term is ridiculous now. I don’t know if anyone’s heard. A woman actually ran for President. News flash. I don’t know if you’ve heard the news.
A Ockershausen: We’ve read the papers.
Christine Brennan: Hello, let’s move beyond “throw like a girl.” Back then, I didn’t throw like a girl. My dad wanted to play sports with me. I’m sure, and I asked him long after, I said, “What did the neighbors think?” He said, “Oh, they probably thought we were the craziest family, that a dad’s playing catch with his daughter in the front yard.” My dad didn’t care. He went out and got a bat and ball and more balls and we were playing baseball in the front yard with all the kids. My dad was the biggest kid on the block. How lucky was I to have that open mindedness?
A Ockershausen: Your mom must have been there too. She was probably supporting him, right?
Christine Brennan: Absolutely. She was totally for this. I asked years later. I said, “Did this bother you?” They said, “No, we had this very tall, athletic girl.” I’m 5’11” and a half now, but I was 5’3″ and a half in sixth grade.
A Ockershausen: Yeah, but over all the other sixth graders, right?
Christine Brennan: Totally. By sophomore year of high school, junior year of high school, I’m already basically 5’10”. By then, I was playing six sports in high school because no one cared enough about girls’ sports to specialize.
A Ockershausen: Was there private schooling? You went to public school?
Christine Brennan: No, public, but a small little beautiful suburban school. Ottawa Hills would be very much like a McClean or Bethesda or a Potomac, but a very small village.
A Ockershausen: I know where you mean.
Christine Brennan: I played every sport, but I didn’t have any organized team to play on till freshman year of high school, which I say that in speeches now. I do a lot of speaking around the Country and there’s so many people are shocked because the girls and the young women in college, I ask them, “How many teams did you play on?” Organized teams before freshman year of high school, and they’re counting up to the forties.
A Ockershausen: This is today.
Christine Brennan: My niece today, she’s a seventh grader, she’s probably already had 15 teams, maybe 20.
A Ockershausen: Organizations that helped her.
Christine Brennan: Tee ball, soccer, first grade soccer, second grade soccer, third grade basketball, travel.
A Ockershausen: Now they’re playing lacrosse. Girls are really big in lacrosse.
Christine Brennan: Again, this is our country. Girls’ sports is just as big as boys’ sports, and certainly as youth sports and high school.
A Ockershausen: I’d rather watch it.
Christine Brennan: We’re giving our daughters, just like our sons, these incredible life lessons, how to win and lose at a young age.
A Ockershausen: Did this lead you then to take this sports knowledge and go to journalism school, or did you pick Northwestern because it happened to be one of the best schools in the world?
Christine Brennan: Both, actually.
A Ockershausen: Could’ve gone to UT.
Christine Brennan: University of Toledo.
A Ockershausen: Toledo. That’s a fine school, incidentally.
“I never thought I would be a sportswriter. Here’s why: I never had a role model. I never read a woman’s sports byline until I got to Northwestern.”
Christine Brennan: I started to research journalism. Here’s the interesting thing and I realized about role models. Here I am, maybe the biggest girl jock in Ohio, maybe in the Country, just waiting to explode into high school sports by playing literally tennis and field hockey in the fall, basketball, volleyball in the winter, and softball and track and field in the spring. I also would keep score of an entire season of Toledo Mud Hens baseball off the radio as a 10 year old girl. Not only was no 10 year old girl doing that in America in the late ’60s, early ’70s, no 10 year old boy was doing that.
A Ockershausen: No, that’s correct.
Christine Brennan: I am totally into sports. I knew sports left and right. We had all these season tickets. I’m playing like crazy. I’m watching like crazy. I’m writing up little reports. My brother’s four years younger. He joined me eventually with my mom’s typewriter and I never thought I would be a sportswriter. Here’s why: I never had a role model. I never read a woman’s sports byline until I got to Northwestern.
A Ockershausen: There weren’t any, were they?
Christine Brennan: There were none that I knew of. There’s no Internet, of course, so it’s either the Detroit paper, the Toledo paper, the Chicago paper, a vacation wherever we went. I couldn’t wait to grab the sports section, but I never read a woman’s sports byline. The only woman I saw, Andy, doing sports on television was Phyllis George, who’d been Miss America 1971.
A Ockershausen: That’s right. Phyllis Brown eventually. Married the governor.
Christine Brennan: Exactly, and of course Pamela Brown is her wonderful daughter who’s on CNN. Fabulous.
A Ockershausen: She’s got her own show now, Campbell has. Big show, I understand.
Christine Brennan: Pamela Brown.
A Ockershausen: 74, they call it. The new show. Something new. I just read about it today. Campbell Brown.
Christine Brennan: Pamela Brown is Phyllis’s daughter.
A Ockershausen: I thought it was Campbell Brown. Led you to pick Northwestern to do all this research?
Christine Brennan: Again, I thought I’d be a political journalist. If the career path to be on TV as a women in sports was you had to be Miss America, that was not going to be my career path.
A Ockershausen: You could have won. Miss Ohio.
Christine Brennan: Just go back and look at those pictures from those days, and that is fine because I never relied on my looks. I never. So many women who are beautiful, I don’t know what they think about the world, but I was always about substance. Mom and Dad were always about that, always about achieving and good grades. Yes, Northwestern was a natural for me. When I realized it was the best journalism school in the country, I’m biased, I’m on the Board of Trustees now so I bleed purple in all ways, but back then …
A Ockershausen: You could almost commute.
Christine Brennan: Yes, exactly, but back then, best journalism school in the Country, Chicago, Big Ten, Big Ten sports, I’m there. I got in Early Decision and that was it. Moving forward, and this is something that’s very important for any girls and women who are listening to us, or boys and men and dads or moms, whatever, is that because I never relied on my looks, I never expected anyone to give me anything that way. I’m doing work. It’s substance. It’s quality. It’s achievement. It’s newspapers.
A Ockershausen: Substance over form.
Christine Brennan: Yeah. Now, the irony is I’m doing more TV than I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t mind saying I’m 58 years old and I’ve just had, in 2016, more TV appearances than ever before. I have a CNN contract. ABC News, PBS Newshour. The Olympics alone …
A Ockershausen: You still do stuff for ABC occasionally.
Christine Brennan: Good Morning America.
A Ockershausen: ESPN, Good Morning America.
Christine Brennan: Not ESPN. My big one is CNN now. I did over 50 appearances in Rio. Thank you Ryan Lochte, wherever you are, you big goofball.
A Ockershausen: I remember that.
It’s Not About How Beautiful You Are
Christine Brennan: The point is, and this is what I tell young women all the time, is looks come and looks go. As you know, I do tons of mentoring. I was the first President of the Association for Women in Sports Media. I started a scholarship/internship fund. I fund two of those. I’m very much involved with the lives of young women in sports media, college students. I talk to hundreds of them a year. One of the things is a lot of them want to be sideline reporters. As I tell them, that’s great. Fine. I’m for anyone doing anything, but if you are at age 25 getting hired because you’re beautiful and gorgeous and that’s fantastic. It’s great. I’m all for it. When you’re 30, they could hire the next 25 year old.
A Ockershausen: They probably got her already.
Christine Brennan: Exactly. I want longevity. I want them to be able to say they’re doing more television in their fifties than they did in their twenties, thirties, and forties. How is that going to happen? It’s by using your brains and your talent. Ironically enough, the story I’ve just told about not expecting to be getting anything because of my looks and now doing more TV this year than I’ve ever done in my life …
A Ockershausen: At 58.
Christine Brennan: 58, and I’m proud to say it, and we could look it up on Wikipedia. My life is an open book. You know exactly when I was born. The reality is be honest about that but also to be honest about this with young women because I want you to be doing this and how in the world is that going to happen if you’re being hired for your looks because you’re a beautiful young person, which is great, but where will you be in your fifties?
A Ockershausen: You’re going to take it. I consider that, being beautiful and young, a talent, but you got to use that talent by doing other things with it. It’s not going to last very long.
Christine Brennan: Let’s be honest. You ran the place where we are right now, WMAL, and you’ve run news organizations and you’ve run broadcast entities. I’ll call out the men, mostly men, who are running these now. If you’re just telling a young woman, “Look beautiful and wear a cocktail dress,” you’re doing her no favors. I would put this, and I don’t mind being controversial, as you well know. I would put this on all these people that run ESPN and all these other networks. What are you doing? Is this a cocktail show? Cocktail hour? Or is it a broadcast?
A Ockershausen: Everything you’re saying I absorb it, I know what you’re saying because I look at these faces and I can’t remember one single name or one single thing they said that’s stuck here. I watch the shows. I watch the interviews and they’re all the same. I thought they had one person and they just keep re-reeling.
Christine Brennan: I want them to be substantial, and they are substantial. These young women who are beautiful, I’m all for them. I’m 100%, but …
A Ockershausen: They got to do more than that.
Christine Brennan: And they could. Because they’re smart and they’ve been trained and they’ve gone to great journalism schools, be it Northwestern or Missouri or University of Maryland with our friend George Solomon, my old boss.
A Ockershausen: Syracuse is a great place.
Christine Brennan: Oh my gosh. There’s so many. Florida, USC, they’re out there, and these are great, great young people. Don’t marginalize them. Don’t say, “Oh, you’re just going to be my sideline person.” I want to see them in the booth. I want to see them doing play by play. We will get there. Like anything else, the march of history.
Longevity as a Woman in Broadcasting
A Ockershausen: It’s happening. Inevitable.
Christine Brennan: Oh, it’s happening. There’s over 1,000 women covering sports in this country, but it’s a real issue, and as you know, I am not afraid to speak out on this topic.
A Ockershausen: You kept quiet. I would never have known that.
Christine Brennan: I know. I was a little shy on that, but I thought I would tell you today.
A Ockershausen: 58 years old is not old anymore.
Christine Brennan: No, I feel great.
A Ockershausen: 58 is the new 25. I’m serious.
Christine Brennan: Right. You’re like 59 or 60.
A Ockershausen: Age is a number. Yeah. 65. Remember, age is only a number.
Christine Brennan: That’s right. We’re seven years apart. I forgot.
A Ockershausen: I use that all the time.
Christine Brennan: That’s the point. Let’s be honest. Living life is great and longevity is great. Here, I’ve covered the Olympics since 1984 in LA. I’ve just covered my 17th Olympics in a row, Winter and Summer, Rio. What a dream that is. I would have hoped to go to one as a fan.
A Ockershausen: You go to all of them.
Christine Brennan: What would 18 year old me have thought if 58 year old me showed up and said, “Guess what? Starting in ’84, you’re not going to miss another Olympics. All expenses paid and paid and TV and the biggest newspaper in the Country, USA Today, and before that the Post.” I would have burst into tears at the thought of that as an 18 year old. Could this possibly happen to me?
A Ockershausen: It did. It did happen.
Christine Brennan: I appreciate all of it, but also the longevity is fantastic and it’s lucky because when I’m talking about Ryan Lochte, for example, and that whole ridiculous story and his total misbehavior at age 32. He’s not 20. He’s 32 and he’s lying and he’s making stuff up and he’s just an embarrassment to the Country and the Brazilians and everything. When I’m talking about this and I report for USA Today and CNN and ABC that he’s going to be suspended and he’s going to be suspended for 10 months, which I also got that fact out. I’m reporting this because I’m talking to the people. My sources include a whole bunch of people that I’ve known for 30 years who’ve known me for 30 years, who are the people who are going to suspend him.
A Ockershausen: Here comes the horse’s mouth.
Christine Brennan: If I’m 25, people can guess who those people are. I’m obviously not going to reveal, but there’s a group of 20 or 30 people that were involved with the decision making. Because I’ve been around 30 years, I know those people and they know me and they trust me and they’ll tell me what’s going on, so that then enhances the …
A Ockershausen: Credibility.
Christine Brennan: Right, and it enhances my ability to report news. A 25 year old, who I’m for as much as life itself for her success or his success, because I mentored so many of them, the 25 year old doesn’t have the contacts. It’s a beautiful thing and this is the shame of our news business, whether it’s broadcast or newspaper or print or websites, where we’re getting rid of all the 50-somethings because their salaries are too big. There goes the longevity to break the news and that goes over to politics and that goes over into coverage of the presidential election. It goes over into everything, and that’s why I feel so lucky and fortunate to be …
A Ockershausen: It’s called experience. Do you realize that? We could not do what we’re doing now, and Janice will tell you that, because I sat down with Janice. I came up with a list of 100 names of people I can call that would respond to me, and that’s what I did, and nobody refused me to talk about Our Town, as you’re … You are Our Town to me because you’ve done so much here. How in the world did you run into Michael? He was in college? Wilbon. You remember him at Northwestern?
Christine Brennan: Wilbon. Oh yes. Yes.
A Ockershausen: I thought Michael was a lot older than you.
Christine Brennan: Thank you. Thank you. Shall we continue the Michael story?
A Ockershausen: We’ll take a break and we’ll talk about Michael Wilbon and all the great writers you’ve worked with and talk about Augusta and all of that that we’ve been through. This is Andy Ockershausen on Our Town with Christine Brennan.
[Commercial] Sonny Jurgensen: This is Sonny Jurgensen. Got a confession to make. I let my wife drag me to one of those Mike Collins estate planning seminars. Like I don’t have enough on my plate with a certain football team. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, we both learned a whole lot about how to protect our kids and grandkids down the road and to take care of ourselves right now. If you get one of Mike’s invitations in the mail, go. I’m glad I did. Get all the information and register online at MikeCollins.com. That’s MikeCollins.Com. [End Commercial]
Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
A Ockershausen: We’re with Christine Brennan. This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen. We’ve been talking about the Posties, but mainly I’m talking about Michael Wilbon, who you knew in college.
Michael Wilbon Advocates for Brennan at The Washington Post
Christine Brennan: We met first day freshman year. Can you picture? Too bad we didn’t have iPhones.
A Ockershausen: I thought he was a lot older than you.
Christine Brennan: I’ll be happy to tell him that when I see him.
A Ockershausen: I will when I see him.
Christine Brennan: Thank you. Actually, I’m six months older than he is. I’m a May birthday. He’s a November. First day freshman year, you go to the journalism meetings. There are 150 freshmen in Medill School.
A Ockershausen: In the journalism course?
Christine Brennan: Yeah. Just the journalism school. Medill School of Journalism. There’s 600 total, 150 in each class. 150 of us and there were those of us who’d, I guess, checked off a box about sports. I don’t remember. We go to this meeting with this professor who’s going to be our advisor for the ones who like sports, even though again, I’m still thinking I’ll end up being a political reporter only because I had no role models.
A Ockershausen: They had no room for you in sports.
Christine Brennan: Did women do this? Then I get to Northwestern and I read a woman’s sports byline, the sports editor of the Daily Northwestern, Helene Elliott, LA Times to this day, was there and I read her byline and I said, “Oh, ok women can do this.” Then I was on my way.
A Ockershausen: Was she the editor or just the sports editor?
Christine Brennan: She was the sports editor. She had a byline …
A Ockershausen: The school paper.
Christine Brennan: Yes, the Daily Northwestern, where I ended up working and becoming …
A Ockershausen: Was it a daily? At Northwestern?
Christine Brennan: Oh yeah, Monday through Friday, sure. I was the managing editor and news editor.
A Ockershausen: With advertising, I may add.
Christine Brennan: Oh, it’s fabulous. Yeah, fabulous. It was our life. My boyfriend senior year was the editor. I was the managing editor. Some of my best friends to this day, many of them. Wilbon was part of that. He was the sports columnist. Freshman year, first day. It’s too bad we don’t have pictures of this, of all of us little kids. It would’ve been ridiculous, but I meet him and others that day. We’re off and running on this friendship that has lasted from September of ’76 to this minute.
A Ockershausen: 40 plus years.
Christine Brennan: It is. Dear friends through college. Again, he was the sports columnist. I was the managing editor. Just pals all the way through. Then he gets the Washington Post internship, so I get the Miami Herald, and he comes to the Post and then he’s full time at the Washington Post. We would stay in touch. We’d see each other, bowl games. Just as 22, 23 year olds, whatever. Now it’s that Miami Hurricanes season as they win and keep winning. Lost the first game and then won everything.
A Ockershausen: Who was the coach? Jimmie Johnson?
Christine Brennan: No, that was Howard Schnellenberger.
A Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Christine Brennan: They’re actually now in the Orange Bowl. This is the game for the Orange Bowl for the national championship, Miami against Nebraska, Bernie Kosar and whatever. Unbeknownst to me, Mike Wilbon is taking the entire week’s worth of Miami Herald sports sections, which I’m breaking news and I’m the beat writer, so I’m lucky enough to be all over that newspaper every day with my stories. He’s putting them all in his suitcase and he brings them up to George Solomon and he dumps them on George’s desk and says, “Here’s my friend, Chris Brennan, or Christine Brennan,” whatever he would have said. “Hire my friend.” Eight months later, I’m walking in the door of the Washington Post as its newest sportswriter in ’84. I tell that story and Wilbon and I laugh about it, but how many students and young people have I told that story to, Andy, about how it happens? Would I have made it to the Post anyway? Maybe. I was hearing from people. Boston Globe.
A Ockershausen: Yeah, because you were not unknown in Miami, obviously.
Christine Brennan: I was lucky enough, even though there’s no Internet back then, the word is out. I want to also be honest here. If I had been a white male coming out of Northwestern with undergrad and Master’s from Medill, if I had been a white male I would not have gotten that job at the Miami Herald. Because they put me right on the floor to Gator speed. I’ve passed over maybe 10 people who were waiting because they’d never had a woman sportswriter before.
A Ockershausen: They were going to go make a step.
Christine Brennan: They were going to make a step and I was a token. For the first and only time, I was a minority. A suburban white kid from Toledo as a minority, but I also accepted that responsibility. That first day, was it momentous? I was trying to figure out where to park and what elevator to get in and come up to my desk.
A Ockershausen: It was momentous.
Christine Brennan: I also, even at age 22 back then, I was willing to accept that. I didn’t take it as pressure. I was so confident, so strong. My dad always said, “Stand up straight. Shoulders back.” Who knew he was going to prepare me to walk into men’s locker rooms?
A Ockershausen: Great newspaper. This is not rinky dink. Miami Herald. In South America, everybody south of Miami reads that paper in the islands.
Christine Brennan: It was the biggest paper in Florida and it was top 10 newspaper in the country. Northwestern had a great tie, so I had about 30 college friends that were down there in various roles, bureaus, and etc., but for me to go right to that major beat, because at the time in Miami there’s no Major League Baseball, there’s no NBA, and there’s no NHL. It’s the Miami Dolphins, and then it’s Florida, Florida State, and Miami. I was put on that beat, but I think that is important to say to folks. I get it. Were there hardships for women? Yeah. Actually, it was great being a woman.
A Ockershausen: Great opportunity for you.
Christine Brennan: If I’d been a man, I would not have gotten that job.
A Ockershausen: Good for you to recognize that.
Christine Brennan: I’ve said that 10,000 times over my career.
A Ockershausen: Michael is also minority. He faced that in his career growing up, but at the Post, it was not a problem to anybody at the Post, Michael.
Christine Brennan: George Solomon and Ben Bradlee and Len Downie, and Katharine Graham were all about diversity.
A Ockershausen: Diversity. Because it works. It made a better paper.
Christine Brennan: Of course it did.
A Ockershausen: That’s what they were after. Even to hire Tony.
Christine Brennan: Yes. I’ll let you say it again, diversity. Again, Wilbon embraced it, I embraced it, Sally Jenkins. We embrace it and then we also don’t even think about it.
A Ockershausen: No, that’s natural now.
Christine Brennan: Because that’s the point. Janice, you’re here. you know as a woman leading, in management, you don’t want to be the woman manager or the woman sports journalist. You’re the sports journalist who happens to be a woman.
Janice: Right, but you have to feel special. When you walked into those situations, you had to feel special. You had to feel like, “Man, I’ve arrived.”
Christine Brennan: You know you are. I must admit there’d be times when people would say, “Oh, you’re the only woman in this press box,” and I didn’t notice it because I was focused on what I was doing.
A Ockershausen: Watching the game.
Christine Brennan: Right. If a camera crew’s following me to do a feature on me, okay, because I would say yes to that because I’d picture a seven year old girl on the couch in Bethesda or Southeast DC or Herndon, and I’ve heard from those seven year olds who are now 45 or whatever, who were inspired or who do remember me, which makes me smile because I said yes to those interviews not because I wanted publicity. Frankly as you recall in Carlisle, I’m being followed by a camera crew. That was kind of inhibiting. I’m trying to do my job and I’ve got a crew in my face. They’re interviewing me, not the players.
A Ockershausen: And not the players. That’s what they do.
Christine Brennan: They did, because everyone …
A Ockershausen: “This is one woman. What is she thinking?”
Christine Brennan: Yeah. Four, five, seven, and nine all did features on me when I was put on the beat in ’85.
A Ockershausen: And happened to be six feet tall.
Christine Brennan: Exactly. I accepted that gratefully because I realized, okay. Bring it on. It’s not a burden. It’s a joy.
Janice: That’s a great responsibility.
Christine Brennan: It is, but I, again, was raised by parents who were like, “Honey, you’re going to be noticed and tall and whatever, and be confident and comfortable,” and who knows where that confidence came from? I had it I feel very lucky.
A Ockershausen: You’ve done so much and great for the Washington Post. George knows that. George is a very dear friend. All those years growing up I knew George. When he worked for the News, he worked for the Daily News, which at one time was a very good little Washington newspaper. George is very foresighted. One of the things I noticed that you got deeply involved in, and I was a part of that with you but only that much, was Augusta National Golf Club. I recall one day at Augusta, I took Christine on a tour. We walked around the golf course with a guy named Ivan Lendl, who was one of the great tennis players in the world. He knew less about golf than you did.
Christine Brennan: But he does now because he has daughters playing golf.
A Ockershausen: Man, right. He became a world class guy in golf.
Christine Brennan: These male athletes who have girls who make their girls into fabulous athletes.
A Ockershausen: The Tour’s making a lot of money for them too. Salaries are up and the gates are up and the pot’s up. Anyway, you got into somewhat of a conflict with the elders at Augusta National, and I supported you all the way because it had to be the stupidest thing in the world.
Christine Brennan: 1999 was the first year I went there. I just asked a question. It was the end. People think, oh, there’s some mission or cause.
A Ockershausen: It’s a good question.
Christine Brennan: Right. It’s the Hootie Johnson press conference and everyone’s asking about the tree on 12 and … Not the tree.
A Ockershausen: The new trap.
Hootie Johnson Augusta National Golf Club and Diversity
Christine Brennan: Tree on 13. Yeah, you moved the bunker on 14 and all this stuff. I’m waiting through all the golf questions. All these guys are dear friends of mine and reporters, they’re great, so I’m not going to barge in. I waited towards the end of that press conference and I just said, “Hootie, I’d just like to ask, how many African-American members and how many women members do you have?” He said, “That’s a club matter, ma’am, and all club matters are private.” As a journalist, Journalism 101, you follow up. “Do you have any women members?” I realized, because c’mon. “That’s a club matter, ma’am, and all club matters are private.” I quoted him verbatim. None of us told our name. It wasn’t like a presidential press conference where you’re being called on with a name. I would of course said my name, but no one else is saying their name. “Hey Hootie, hey hey hey.” It wasn’t stealth question. Anyone on Earth could have figured out who I am. I’m sitting right there. The next day, I quoted him verbatim in USA Today, the largest newspaper in the country, because of course I did, because of course I’m a columnist for USA Today. Hello.
A Ockershausen: That’s why you were there.
Christine Brennan: That’s why I’m there. That’s what I’m doing. This is not a secret. It has been well documented that that’s what I do. Sure enough, up comes Hootie with the PR man into the press section where we were all sitting and he introduces himself. I think they’re a little surprised to have this be quoted. They weren’t saying they were misquoted. Of course they were. They were quoted accurately, he was. He just wanted to say hi, and so I took the opportunity. I said, “Why don’t you have a woman member?” “Well, we will in due time?” “Why not do it sooner?” We’re having a great conversation. He was a great guy.
A Ockershausen: Hootie, yeah.
Christine Brennan: What people don’t realize is whenever I’d see Hootie at Augusta he would come up and give me a hug. People wanted this to be the evil feminazi, who by the way came from the Rock Red Republican household. That always shock’s everybody. My dad was Bush’s vice chair in Ohio in ’88 and we had all these presidential candidates at our house and I know George Herbert Walker Bush well because of my dad to this day. That I was some kind of liberal crazed maniac. No. This was the exact opposite, but they wanted to make it like I’m the terrible, awful woman against Hootie. No. We got along fine. I was asking a question. He answered the question.
A Ockershausen: The rules are the rules. Hootie is just one guy. The rules are the club, not Hootie. Who was he followed by?
Billy Payne Augusta National Golf Club and Diversity
Christine Brennan: That’s Billy Payne, and we knew that Billy would make the change because Billy ran the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
A Ockershausen: He’s a little more forward thinking.
Christine Brennan: Was born a little more recently. Billy, who I’d known since the late ’80s, because it was his dream to have the Atlanta Olympics and I was covering the Olympics for the Washington Post. I was down there all the time.
A Ockershausen: The Washington Post still clout, clout, clout.
Christine Brennan: Exactly. In fact, Billy and I got along so well he gave me a big story. He wanted to bring golf to Augusta National for the ’96 Olympics. He said to me at that time, “We’ll show all those old geezers at Augusta what it’s like to have women and people of color from all around the world playing golf.” That was Billy, well before he was a member of Augusta and well before he was chairman of Augusta. I knew that, and I was able to quote him on that when he was still dancing around the issue and looking ridiculous and embarrassing himself when he was trying to twist himself into a pretzel to explain why women were not members of Augusta. Thankfully, it was 2012. I got back from London, the Olympics. I was out in San Diego giving a speech and I got a call, not from Billy, but from someone, allowing me to break the news. Here I am, their biggest tormentor from ’99 to ’12.
A Ockershausen: They came to you first with. That’s class.
Christine Brennan: It’s class, and it’s also because of hopefully the way I treated them and they treated me. They knew what they were getting and I was allowed to break the story. Again, most people out there, and we saw this with this election, this awful, awful, nasty, terrible behavior, not only by one candidate, but also by all the Internet. This is what people need to stop and think. I don’t mean to make political statements, but it was Donald Trump, of course, and the awful things he said and did, and then all these people that foment this. Again, whether you voted for him or not, he was awful, officially awful and disgusting in his behavior. Okay, so there’s that. People don’t step back. You can have a disagreement, as I did with Augusta for 13 years, and also be incredibly civil, polite, get along, and be friendly. That’s what that story proves and I’m very proud of that story.
A Ockershausen: Billy Payne would not have been president of Augusta National if he hadn’t have done a good job with the Olympics. I think that was a springboard, don’t you? That put him into that job.
Christine Brennan: Great point, Andy, and, as you know, the 1996 Olympics were known as the women’s Olympics. It’s where softball started. It’s where women’s soccer started, which led to Mia Hamm …
A Ockershausen: I’ll never forget Muhammad Ali.
Christine Brennan: … Which led to ’99. Of course, Janet Evans is the one that’s passing the flame to Muhammad Ali as he’s shaking.
A Ockershausen: What a fabulous, fabulous show.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics – “The Women’s Olympics”
Christine Brennan: There was so much going on in those Olympics, but it’s known as the women’s Olympics. Not one but two women’s pro basketball leagues came from the Atlanta Olympics: the WNBA and American Basketball League, I think it was called. Then that folded, but the WNBA to this day. Women’s soccer grew from that. Billy Payne oversaw the greatest Olympics for women ever. There was no doubt in my mind that eventually Billy Payne was going to be bringing women …
A Ockershausen: He was going to have to do it.
Christine Brennan: … Because it was so opposite of Billy that he would be overseeing this club that was so discriminatory against women in the 21st century when he in the 1990s led the way in a big way with women in sports.
A Ockershausen: It used to always drive me crazy about the good ol’ boys, all of them went back to their own country clubs after Augusta National and played with their wives at their club.
Christine Brennan: Or the young women who were hitting the ball farther than they were. That’s the thing. If we really want to get into-
A Ockershausen: They were anti-women, that was screwed up.
Christine Brennan: It was idiotic. Of course, then they bring in two women, now there’s a third, and one of them’s Condoleeza Rice, who’s the most famous member of the club. Who doesn’t want to hang out with Condoleeza Rice? She was, of course, George W. Bush’s Secretary of State. Who wouldn’t want to play a round of golf with the Secretary of State during W’s term?
A Ockershausen: Everything. Condi was there.
Christine Brennan: That’s the point. Yes, Hillary Clinton did not win this election, but folks, anyone who doesn’t think that women are not equal players, I believe four women were elected to the Senate. There were six new US Senators. Four women, two men. We have more male spouses in this new class of Senators than female spouses, four to two.
A Ockershausen: How about that?
Christine Brennan: Hello? It’s 2016. The last three guys who hate Title IX are probably in Montana hiding under a desk right now. C’mon out because it’s 2016 and if you cheered for the Olympics, if you turned on the Olympics for one second and you loved Katie Ledecky and you loved the US Olympic team, then you are the biggest fan of Title IX because if there’s no Title IX then the US is third or fourth in the medal count because we don’t have the women who are the great athletes.
A Ockershausen: I remember your ice skating coverage too when we talk about that, but you knew that my friend Ron Townsend from Channel Nine was a member of Augusta National.
Christine Brennan: I know Ron and we’re friendly now. I don’t think he was entirely pleased that I was asking those questions. I would say back to Ron, who I like a lot, Ron’s an African-American. He was the first African-American member of Augusta National.
A Ockershausen: That’s correct.
Christine Brennan: It is interesting to me in all honesty, here we are, who cares, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m always trying to be honest.
A Ockershausen: He got in way before Condi Rice got in.
Christine Brennan: Did he do everything in his power as an African-American man to bring women in?
A Ockershausen: No.
Christine Brennan: Of course not. Let’s just be honest.
A Ockershausen: It’s a male thing. It’s not color. Christine, this is great. I want to come back and talk to you about the ice skating, because that was another one of your coups, as I recall. This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen and Christine Brennan.
[Commercial] This is Andy Ockershausen talking to Tommy Jacomo and bragging about his restaurant, The Palm.
Tommy Jacomo: Hi, I’m Tommy Jacomo. Why don’t you come down and see me at The Palm restaurant? We’ve been here for 43 years. We have great steaks, great lobsters, great food. Caricatures on the wall. It’s just a fun place to eat and drink. We’re located at 19th and N, just above Dupont Circle. For reservations, call 202-293-9091. That’s 202-293-9091. www.thepalm.com. [End Commercial]
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town, and Christine Brennan was one of the great stories of all time was you covering the Olympic problem between the two female skaters. World class skaters incident, whose husband of one I knew. Solomon right here from Pro-serve.
Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding – 1994
Christine Brennan: Yeah, Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding. January 1994. It went all the way to the end of February.
A Ockershausen: What a story. You’re still with the Post.
Christine Brennan: I was with the Post at the time. That story, it’s my favorite story to ever cover. Everyone thinks, “Oh gosh, Ray Rice,” which of course a very different kind of story, or Jerry Sandusky, a very different kind of story. Terrible. Or whatever these things are. Nothing ever will approach Tonya-Nancy. The story built. Of course, the attack of one skater on her knee, a bruised knee that spurred Nancy Kerrigan on to the greatest performance of her life. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a bruised knee, but it looked really bad for a while. Of course, the four goofballs that attacked her, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, were all friends of Tonya Harding or her live-in ex-husband. Tonya was a chain smoking asthmatic. Think about it for a minute. Chain smoking asthmatic.
A Ockershausen: With a high profile sports job. Skating.
Christine Brennan: Right, trying to skate. Wonder why she never won an Olympic medal. Hm, I’ll think about that. You just had this unbelievable storyline that was very important and very serious. The nation took seriously. A-1 of the Washington Post. Day after day, leading the network news. That’s when I started doing a ton of television.
A Ockershausen: All the time.
Christine Brennan: I didn’t have a contract, so I was literally doing the Today Show and Good Morning America and NBC Nightly News and ABC and Nightline and everything else. It was fun. NPR Morning Edition. That’s when I really started to …
A Ockershausen: It was almost an incredulous story about the gang.
Christine Brennan: CNN. This was CNN’s first big story. This was the first cable TV story where people would talk about it at the grocery store and in the frozen food …
A Ockershausen: It wasn’t a sports story either. It was a criminal story.
Christine Brennan: It was criminal, but it was also figure skating are these beautiful ice princesses. Aha, they’re competitive. Whoa. You threw that in the mix. The other thing about this story that most people don’t realize, it all built. Built and built and built day after day to the moment where they skated against each other, the short program in Lillehammer. I think it was February 22 or 23 of 1994. That story, to this day, that night of figure skating on CBS, CBS had the Olympics back then, from Lillehammer, Norway, sixth highest rated show in television history today. To this day. Last MASH, number one. Who shot JR, Dallas, number two. One of the episodes of Roots, number three. Two Super Bowls involving the 49ers, four and five. Tonya-Nancy short program in Lillehammer.
A Ockershausen: Amazing.
Christine Brennan: There’s more viewership of the Super Bowl.
A Ockershausen: But there’s more channels now too.
Christine Brennan: 48.5 rating. Half the nation watched. It was eight hours old. Everyone knew the result. Still, half the nation watched. The Super Bowl’d get a 40. This got a 48.5. Again, more TVs now. We have never seen anything like it, and so what happens then is, I’ve covered every minute of it, they skate, Nancy wins the silver, Tonya finishes sixth and ends up throwing up in a trash can, she’s got her skate lace, faulty thing, everyone remembers that, pointing to the skate lace. It’s just an unmitigated disaster for Tonya Harding after all that. Nancy wins the silver. Should’ve won the gold, I thought, against Oksana Baiul, and off they go.
A few months later, a book editor … I’d written one book with Tracy Austin, the tennis star. Lisa Drew from Scribner gets in touch, Andy, and says, “You have any ideas for books? I loved your coverage of all the Tonya-Nancy stuff.” I kind of, “Oh, I don’t know. No one’s ever done a journalistic look at this sport, but the TV ratings are, again, obviously through the roof.” I put together a book proposal that became Inside Edge. I thought my other colleagues, Andy. I thought the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe and everybody would jump in to do a book. No one did, so I’m only there by myself writing the book deal.
A Ockershausen: You lived it.
Christine Brennan – Author – Inside Edge
Christine Brennan: I lived it, but they did too. What I’m saying is so many other journalists covered it, but I was the only one. Again, kids out there, go for it, go for it. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I’d written a book, but kind of blank slate. I put together this book, which was funny. The judges, the skating controversy, the costumes, Katarina Witt, Peggy Fleming and the woman who was second and how their lives changed because of the decimal point back in the early ’60s, HIV/AIDS, the tremendous, sad loss of life of the men in the sport at the time when no one was focusing on AIDS and HIV.
A Ockershausen: Way, way before that. Dick Button.
Christine Brennan: Right. He’s fine. He doesn’t have it, but Dick, of course, is the announcer.
A Ockershausen: It was the AIDS, though, when he was announcing all that.
Christine Brennan: Exactly. Exactly. He’s still alive and fine. All these creative, wonderful minds in the sports, skaters, Olympic gold medalists, coaches, choreographers, all dead because of AIDS. I did a chapter on that. The book went through the roof and became a bestseller. I left the Post when I got the next book deal that reflected the success of Inside Edge. Who knew that a serious journalist would say this, Andy, but I will right here on your podcast. Tonya Harding changed my life. How about that?
A Ockershausen: Our Town. One of the wonderful things about covering sports. You live it, you became a part of it, and now it’s helped you in so many ways. That’s why I save this for the end of our conversation because I know how important that is to you and I know how important it is to journalism. That book said a lot, that you can do it and you did it. I thought it was so fair to everybody. You were dealing with idiots, it seemed to me.
Christine Brennan: There was a lot of that. That hasn’t stopped, as we know. There’s some of that. How lucky are we, and I know we’re at a close here the finish, but I’ve never worked a day in my life. I am doing what I love, and for the young people out there, boys and girls, men and women, whatever, who are thinking about life and what they’d like to do, if you do what you love, as you know, Andy, Janice, you know, you never work a day in your life. Yeah, there are moments, of course …
A Ockershausen: Highs and lows.
Christine Brennan: To get to go around the world covering sports on TV and speeches and books, I’m living my dreams, and I’m so lucky. I just feel so fortunate.
A Ockershausen: Christine, you’re a shining example to men as well as women. If you work hard, you get lucky. Luck follows speed and you’re fast and you do everything right. We’re so delighted to have you in Our Town. You live in Our Town. You’re part of Our Town, and I don’t know anybody that doesn’t love Christine Brennan.
Christine Brennan: Andy, I feel the same about you. I think everyone loves you. And Janice, of course. Of course they do. They all love Janice. Andy, I don’t know. No, adore you. Thanks for all you’ve done. You pushed for me. You had me on the air here. You were a huge supporter of my career.
A Ockershausen: Comcast. You’ve done it all.
Christine Brennan: Absolutely, but thanks for the support. It would not have been possible without people like you.
A Ockershausen: Again, what you did way back 30 years ago with the Redskins impressed me and impresses me to this day and you stuck it out and you dealt with all these people and dealt with them as a friend, and that’s what it’s all about. Christine, thank you. This has been Our Town.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town season one with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town podcast episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. We welcome your comments and suggestions on how you liked the show or who you’d like to hear from next. Catch us on Facebook at Our Town DC or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to WMAL radio in Washington DC for hosting our podcasts.