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Published: Sunday, 7/3/2005

Brennan owes career to passion for sports

In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Maureen Fulton talked with Toledo native Christine Brennan, a USA Today columnist and network TV analyst.

When Christine Brennan was 11 years old, she recorded game results daily in her diary. Brennan also kept score of the entire Toledo Mud Hens season from the radio that year, in 1969.

Her passion for sports growing up in Old Orchard and Ottawa Hills led her to a career in sports media where she has achieved many firsts.

More than 25 years later, Brennan lists among her many accomplishments being the first female sports writer at The Blade and the Miami Herald, the first woman to cover the Redskins for the Washington Post, the first president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, and the first author of a book that took a journalistic look at figure skating.

A 1976 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School, Brennan has been a columnist for USA Today for eight years and has worked for ABC News/ESPN since 1999. She has covered 11 Olympic Games and is also a commentator for National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her sixth book, Best Seat in the House, is a memoir and includes much about growing up in Toledo and loving local sports. It is due out near Father's Day, 2006. She is a graduate of Northwestern University.

"AS A KID, I just couldn't get enough of sports. It was that kind of childhood of just loving sports, trading baseball cards, listening to Mud Hens and Tigers games on the radio. We did Michigan games in the afternoon and Toledo Rockets games at night. I loved Toledo Rockets football. I cheered and cheered and cheered for that team, and they never ever disappointed me."

"I knew I wanted to do journalism, but I had no role models. I had never seen a woman's sports byline, ever. There was no Internet, there was no way to know. Phyllis George, Miss America, was on NFL Today, but that was not going to become my career path. I decided to try to become the role model that I never had."

"In some ways, I was probably a token. I think that's why I understand the symbolism of Augusta National. I know that I was the first, I realized that's important. I wasn't exactly worried about being the first female sports writer at the Herald, I was more worried about where to park my car and how to find everything."

"TONYA HARDING changed my life. I had done ESPN's Sports Reporters, I had done local TV in Washington in the mid and late 1980s. I felt very comfortable on TV, always. But on Jan. 6, 1994, I was there in Detroit and covered the Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident. That was when I was on Nightline, the Today Show, NBC News. From that, within a few years I was signed by ABC News and ESPN."

"I'm very fortunate to be my own boss. If I ever have too much on my plate, I know who to blame. I'm very aware of trying not to do too much. I really try to make sure that I don't overdo. You're only as good as your last story, your last column, your last thing you've done. You can't ever take anything for granted, no matter how experienced you are. I'm one of those geeks who opens the computer again at midnight and double- checks everything."

"I think these are great times for women's sports, but I think greater times are yet to come. The U.S. Women's Open, with all the young golfers, that's Title IX opening up the floodgates for these big tall women who can hit it far off the tee. There's probably hundreds more we haven't even heard of. With the administration continuing trying to weaken the law, I think all women athletes, all fathers and mothers who have girls playing sports, I think everyone needs to be aware that there are those who are trying to take things away."

"I get teased by some of my friends about being the issue woman. I'm proud to say that I write about issues, take stances on things that might not be the most popular to write about. I still try to be the Toledo kid. It's very important to keep grounded. I think about the 7, 8, 9-year-old girls who like to watch sports with their mom or dad. That was me."

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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