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A Lightning Rod, Well Grounded 08/11/2010 - 6:30 AM


by Pete Bodo

Howdy, everyone. I wasn't able to focus on the news out of the Rogers Cup in Toronto yesterday, because I had date to interview and hit some balls with one of the most controversial political pundits in the nation, Sean Hannity. You may know his eponymous show on Fox News Channel, but long before he became a lightning rod on television, he was a pioneer in that medium that has helped shape and transform the national political landscape, talk radio.

Some of my own friends, who as a group span the entire political and socio-economic spectrum, were dismayed to learn that I would hobnob with Hannity, but that's alright—everyone has a right to be as open—or closed—minded as he chooses. I knew that Hannity is a sports nut and tennis player. In fact, he's so into tennis that during the U.S. Open (he has box seats on Arthur Ashe Stadium) he gets frequent updates from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center while he's doing his broadcast.

Then, if anything worthwhile is going on (it turns out that almost anything tennis-related gets Hannity fired up) he'll often make a mad dash out to the NTC and settle into his seat at 10:30 P.M. "I love those nights when they go on until midnight, or one in the morning," he told me. "The energy at those matches is fantastic."

I drove out to Hannity's home on Long Island Sound from Manhattan with photographer David Kenas. I couldn't help notice the security cameras discreetly placed at strategic locations on Hannity's handsome, cedar-shingled home, which are a cost of doing business when you're a well-known, dedicated political partisan in these often fractious and bitter times. A giant Bernese mountain dog pup tumbled out of the front door, followed shortly by Hannity himself, dressed in a well-worn Fila shirt, dark shorts, sunglasses and a FNC trucker cap.

I noticed that Kenas' face turned a paler shade when I introduced him to Hannity.

"The pictures," David mumbled.

"Where are the pictures?" Sean said. "We never got them."

"You won't believe this..." As David spoke, I could see him mentally putting two and two together.

It turns out that Sean had been one of the parents who engaged David to shoot photos of his son at a recent high-level junior event. Kenas, having no great interest in politics and its attendant punditry, had not recognized Hannity, either by face or name. Somehow, David had been unable to locate one set of pictures from among the many he shot that day. He'd spent hours reviewing his photo-memory cards and hard drives, to no avail. That kind of thing never happened to him before; it drove him nuts. Mortified, and he did his best to explain and apologize. 

Sean clapped him on the back. "Don't worry about it," he said. "We've got tons of pictures of the kids playing tennis. Really. It's no big deal."

That was a pleasant surprise, and anyone who's had to deal with celebrities will know exactly what I mean. And it set the tone for the morning we spent together, talking and hitting tennis balls. As a player, Sean is, well, a work in progress. He has a tight, zippy forehand. His two-handed backhand is subject to attack (aren't they all, though, at the rec level?).  His natural serve (Sean was a baseball pitcher in his youth) is excellent, but he has a tender rotator cuff. All in all, Hannity could strike fear into numerous hearts on the Pro-Celebrity circuit, although I have a hard time getting my mind around the idea of the doubles team, Hannity and Baldwin. How about the mixed doubles squad of Hannity and Streisand?

Sean doesn't play much Pro-Am tennis. He doesn't even do many interviews. I suppose that even he, a pugnacious guy whose zest for debate, gets tired of defending his strong views or the "gotcha" brand of journalism that is now so fashionable. Tennis is a family hobby for the Hannitys. Just days before we met, he'd spent the better part of a long weekend in the car with his family, driving to and from a distant junior tennis tournament.

I can't give away the store here. But I'll link to the story I write in TENNIS Magazine at the appropriate time. But I can say that Sean is as level-headed and well-intentioned as any tennis parent I've known. He'd be over the moon if either of his two children (a boy and a girl) becomes good enough to play college tennis. He's more concerned with overdoing it as a parent than in his kids falling behind to some race to excellence. He likes tennis because of the values it teaches and promotes.

Before our interview, I wondered if his 24/7 preoccupation with politics and what we broadly call the "culture wars" would taint the conversation. Would this right-wing firebrand politicize the conversation, or try to draw parallels between our political affairs and tennis, and his experience as tennis parent with a son who's got a good sectional ranking (in the USTA Eastern division)? He did nothing of the kind, even when I left open the door to it (I am, after all, a journalist). When this guy talks tennis, kids and parenting, he speaks in the voice of a...father. A tennis nut. A sports guy trying to do the right thing for his talented kids.

As Sean told me, just as David and I were leaving, "I believe as a religious tenant that God gave everyone a talent, and our job is to find what that talent is, and to put it to best use. So if I were to push too hard with tennis, try to make my kids be great tennis players instead of letting them find out how good they are, or how good they want to be, I'd be interfering with that process. I'd be going against that basic belief."

Look for a more detailed profile of Sean Hannity in an upcoming issue of TENNIS Magazine. I promise fire, if not fireworks of the kind often associated with his name.

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Posted by Samantha Elin(Caro to the haters, don't you wish your pusher was hott like me.) 08/11/2010 at 07:57 AM

I have a strong feeling that Hannity is probably a Williams sisters fan. LOL!!

Posted by Jamaica Karen (FOTHB - Roger and Venus) 08/11/2010 at 07:59 AM

Morning Pete and Morning TWibe. Well some persons made an excellent guess yesterday.

Pete, you know I respect you, but I hardly ever watch Hannity. As a matter of fact I make it a point of duty to scroll pass FNC and CNN whenever I watch television news. Prefer the BBC really. More balanced. This fellow Hannity though is one of the reasons why America is in the divided state that it now is. Sorry. Not my cup of tea where journalism is concerned.

As for his views on being a tennis parent. As a parent you have to find the line between pushing and encouraging. Pushing is forcing a child into a career or to fulfill a parents' own expectations in a career, hence we have little girls being made to dress up and compete in beauty pageants, young boys being made to hit 2000 tennis balls a day to become a great player.

Encouraging your child into a career is to talk with the child and give praise and basically act as a catalyst to get that child to focus on something that is dear to them. It is a fine line, but as a parent I have found that in order to encourage a child, one also has to push.

I hope his children are successful at tennis. Who knows they may become the next Great American Hope.

Posted by Samantha Elin(Caro to the haters, don't you wish your pusher was hott like me.) 08/11/2010 at 08:06 AM

Karen, totally agree, I really got into the election of 2008 and turned him on a couple of time and agree that diviseness was very clear, at a time when Americans of all kind needed to come together, and I'm not American but I could tell that after 5 minutes of watching him. But hey, everyone has to make a dollar. Thanks Pete, this was a very well written blog about a controversial journalist. Glad to see his kids love the game and it would be great if his kids could become the next American hope.

Posted by Samantha Elin(Caro to the haters, don't you wish your pusher was hott like me.) 08/11/2010 at 08:08 AM

On a positive note, he sounds like a really great dad and a nice person outside the television persona.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.I'am Back and I Am Taking No Prisoners! 08/11/2010 at 08:11 AM

Pete Many thanks for the post.Tennis parents what more can I say on this subject.

Though I must say Sean seems to me a level headed "tennis parent".

Indeed Pete over the years we have seen "tennis parents' on every level known to man and them some.

Of course every parent wants to see their child happy in their chosen career.Some may I say go over board.In remaining neutral on this very subject cause my child took up tennis for very different reasons and didnt have the "talent".She saw this and continued to play on a social level.Though she found her niche in life with a degree in International Media degree.

As parents we all want the "best" for our children and to see them happy and content in their chosen career.At the end of the day its their "choice" not ours.

I have cringed at "typical tennis parents".It also adds soo much more pressure on their children to "achieve" regardless if they the children want it as badly as their parents want it.

The key is to support.Though limits and borders I feel have to be put in place or else all hell breaks out.

Today there is soo much more added pressure on the young.Its no wonder there are many "burn outs" on the tennis scene.

The current challenger curcuit is soo hard and competitve these days.A lot of players just give up before they qualifer for the next level up.

Like any career its the passion and the love that keeps you going.

I feel thats the main ingredigent in your life which also transends on the tennis circuit.

Posted by wilson75 08/11/2010 at 08:16 AM

I'm not a fan of Hannity. His show has no balance and is unwatchable.

Posted by Samantha Elin(Caro to the haters, don't you wish your pusher was hott like me.) 08/11/2010 at 08:21 AM

Wilson75, LOL!

Posted by @work 08/11/2010 at 09:03 AM

Count me as another one who is not a fan of Hannity. Who is??!!
Well I don't really need an answer to that. As they say it takes all types to make the world go around.

Posted by tina 08/11/2010 at 09:17 AM

No comment.

Posted by robbyfan 08/11/2010 at 09:27 AM

Not interested at all.

Posted by Syd 08/11/2010 at 09:49 AM

Hannity is a lot of things, but he ain't no journalist:

Loud mouth? Check.
Politically polarizing? The worst.
Equates Liberals with Terrorists and Despots? Not a problem.
Twisted? Big time.
Panders to lowest common denominator. Absolutely, wouldn't have it any other way.
Friends with the Moose Lady? Cheek by jowl.
Politically to the right of Hitler? And then some.

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/11/2010 at 09:50 AM

Wow - Pete delivers the goods.......... on politics!

The big takeaway here is that Hannity, so centered and rooted when he's away from the political fray (it's evident in what he says as a tennis dad), is - by the very fact of his rootedness in this interview - manufacturing what he says on air. In other words, he's paid not to hold the beliefs he (certainly) has, but to trumpet them in the most vigorous, in-your-face, over-the-top way possible, building his radio and book franchises around the daily TV spots. He and others like him (Coulter, Ingraham, etc.) make an industry of bombast, and it's no different with those on the left (Olbermann, Franken, etc.).

This is why our country is screwed. Television has become a place for theater and profitmaking, not for doing what Ed Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley did on the air.

My lefty heart - and make no mistake: after yesterday, it's more apparent than ever that Democrats are not lefties (Robert Gibbs, like the man who pays him, is a fool) - cannot take this.

Pete's interview has done something very productive, though, and has shone a spotlight on a (depressingly) important feature of modern American public affairs television (such as it is).

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 08/11/2010 at 10:02 AM

Not interested at all.


Also? What Syd said.


Posted by Kate 08/11/2010 at 10:11 AM

Nope. Don't watch the guy. Don't care to read/discuss his opinions on anything, including tennis.

Next article please.

Posted by Peter 08/11/2010 at 10:11 AM

Waste of time.

Posted by @work 08/11/2010 at 10:16 AM

"What Syd said"


Posted by Samantha Elin 08/11/2010 at 10:17 AM

I remember ones I was channel surfing, tuned in and saw him beet red, poking his finger at his guest's face and raging on about something racial and I thougt it was like that movie, One Flew over the Cookoos nest part II. It takes all kinds.

Posted by kbw 08/11/2010 at 10:18 AM


"He likes tennis because of the values it teaches and promotes."

Oh, please.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 10:40 AM

Wow, quite alot of uniformity in the views expressed above.

Hannity is certainly not my favorite journalist; he for the most part gives Republican party talking points and is not creative in his thoughts or in the subjects he covers.

Still, I think it's usefull to have a variety of voices on TV and programs like Hannity do fill in some information that is not available on the so-called "neutral" networks.

Given how passionate people here are about tennis and how often we criticize the mainstream tennis press, be it ESPN or whatever, for bias and misrepresentation, it should be obvious that the same exists in the political press, only probably worse as the issues are much more complex.

To me Hannity is like a KAD of a certain player, you know the bias reading his posts, but doesn't mean he doesn't occasionally have some good info or make some good points.

I have no interest in his personal life, but I guess it's good for tennis to point out various celebs who are into the game.

Posted by CherryNYC 08/11/2010 at 10:46 AM


I'm shaking my head at this.

anyway -- hi to everybody -- I've been away a bit due to real-life intrusions... Anybody see Fed last night - how did he look?

Posted by Texastennis 08/11/2010 at 10:51 AM

What Hannity provides is lies and rabble rousing. He's not a journalist by any measure. No good service to civil society or democratic debate is provided by that kind of voice. Shouting other people down regardless of the validity of their views isn't a contribution to the open exchange of viewpoints on which we could have some useful discussion. I couldn't care less about what kind of tennis parent he is - and I certainly don't want to read any soft feel good story about Hannity in Tennis magazine.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (FOTHB - Roger and Venus) 08/11/2010 at 11:03 AM

@CherryNYC, if you are home and have TC, the match is now being shown. 5-2 Federer first set. He looked good. A bit rusty but it was good to see him playing again. He was very aggressive, especially on the second serve returns and was charging the net every chance he got. Nice to see.

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/11/2010 at 11:04 AM

Okay, I'm going to advance one more comment to see if it moves the needle or not....

Do we realize that in seeing the difference between the public political Hannity and the private "tennistical" Hannity, we confront the extent to which producers and executives (Roger Ailes for Fox News and Norby Williamson/Vince Doria/John Walsh for ESPN2) are the true drivers and shapers of what we see on the air?

Do we realize that Mary Carillo and ESPN2's other talking heads are more opinionated and more prone to gabbing because the people who work in the on-site production trucks at events, plus (more importantly) the people who sign their paychecks, WANT THEM TO GAB AND BLAB?

This is a purposeful push on the part of producers and executives. Carillo didn't just decide to become more verbose in the cable TV yakker era. She was quiet and very selective when she was with Tony Trabert and Pat Summerall at the US Open in the late 1980s and early '90s. Summerall is LEGENDARY in the broadcast business precisely because he used words sparingly and allowed the TV visuals to tell the story. He also let analysts like Trabert and Carillo be analysts (same with John Madden in NFL football).

Today, we have no Pat Summeralls as anchors or play-by-play men, and with the TV industry thinking that talking and argumentation are good for ratings in all realms, ESPN and CBS execs unconvinced of opposite methods, we are continuing to see substantially manufactured emotions, with the Carillos and McEnroes taking orders from the people who employ them on a year-round basis as tennis talkers.

There's a rich and important media-based vein Pete has exposed in this story, the kind of media vein which enables us to realize just how much Dick Enberg was NOT AT FAULT for the Del Potro flap last year (it was CBS execs and producers who insisted on getting Monday night sitcoms on the air as quickly as possible, and who were ruthlessly pushing Enberg to move along and get out of Dodge).

I just hope people pick up this point, if they didn't really appreciate it already.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 08/11/2010 at 11:12 AM

Hannity. The diametric opposite of brilliant scholars, such as Tony Judt and Robert C. Tucker, who vigorously and effectively promoted the common good:,8599,2009254,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 11:45 AM

Nothing to see hear people, move along.

Cherry in NYC - I would say Fed was erratic last night. Lost his break up in the first set - couldn't close it out as the UFE meter crept up. As I said last inter Fed family reunion - Ferd, Fred, Fed and TMF all making appearances. Good news is that he was MUCH steadier in the second and hit some real rocket propelled FHs...some of which actually stayed in the court. Was much more aggressive overall, esp. on second serve returns. PA influence?????

Other big discussion was about the pink shirt and khaki shorts. Some like one and not the other, some hated both and a few liked both. Consensus was that he looked sort of a like a Neapolitan Ice Cream bar.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 11:49 AM

Thanks for the links, MSF.
I googled Tony Judt and he has said several things I personally found offensive, inflammatory and misleading. Crying no tears over him not having had his own TV show.

It's difficult to be passionate about politics and offend no one, regardless of your style of speach, demeanor, and scholarly credentials.

Posted by Andrew 08/11/2010 at 11:49 AM

I suspect that I'm well to the left of Pete's specturm, but I don't have any issues at all with learning about Sean Hannity's (or Keith Olbermann's) interest in tennis and the way he thinks as a parent about the role tennis plays in his, and their, lives.

There are lots of people who I disagree with profoundly on politics who are first class parents and interesting people to be around. There are many people who check all my boxes politically who are neither of the above. So it goes.

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/11/2010 at 11:54 AM

TT posts are always great, no pulling punches, just tell the truth from Oudin to Hannity, alway enjoy it.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 11:55 AM

Matt Z - very much agree about the 'whispers in the ear.' Despite the fact that on tv one can actually SEE the action, most tv broadcasters brought with them from radio the terror of 'dead air.' But it has gotten worse over the last dozen years or so as we are now trapped in the fear that if anyone shuts up for a single second the remote will be clicked. It also explains all the whizzing idiotic graphics and crawls that provide more distraction than information. We, the audience, are perceived as having the attention span of a ADD gnat. And are treated that way.

As far as Marcy C goes ...I was watching a recording of an early 90s USO match. Edberg, (natch) vs. Chang. The commies were Summerall, Tony Trabert, and Mary C. I have to honestly say that Summerall was the weak link...but Trabert and Mary were sensational AND the did NOT jibber jabber continuously.

The absolute worst offenders IMO, is the crew who does ESPN baseball. Joe Morgan, Oriel Herscheiser and Someone whose name I blessedly can't remember. The NEVER shut up. There is not one SINGLE second of silence. And often there mindless verbal diarrhea is not only not about the game at hand, but not even about this decade. Oh for some mental Imodium for them.

Posted by tina 08/11/2010 at 12:02 PM

Since I cannot even look at this image of Hannity, I'll be posting on "Blogging Advisory" or over on Tignor today, while I watch Djoko's start on hardcourts.

Posted by Pspace 08/11/2010 at 12:05 PM

Two questions:

1. On topic -- Who is Sean Hannity? I empathize with that photographer dude.

2. Off topic -- Who was that ball basher (wearing pink) playing in Canada, and what did he do to Federer?

Posted by CherryNYC 08/11/2010 at 12:08 PM

Thanks to everybody for the Fed updates -- strong second set is encouraging - and I read he was wearing baby pink! -- Excellent choice, IMO.

And a big thanks to manuelsantanafan for mentioning Tony Judt -- a huge intellectual loss in NYC. That he and Hannity are of the same species would make Darwin faint.

CL -- agree about the ESPN baseball crew -- I admit I have a soft spot for Jon Miller b/c he obviously loves the game so much - but he and Joe Morgan (the WORST) together are just impossible.

Speaking of which -- I read that Dick Enberg, for his career swan song, is now the regular play-by-play guy for the San Diego Padres. Can you imagine? Sorry for you, Padres fans....

Posted by NP 08/11/2010 at 12:09 PM

The problem with Hannity is not that he's partisan, polarizing or divisive--contrary to what the kiddies here and elsewhere think, politics is nothing if not partisan--but that he's an intellectual lightweight with little to nothing interesting to say. IOW he's like most other pundits, just with a bigger brand and megaphone.

Still it's amusing to see this much knee-jerk whining without even half-intelligent commentary on things tennis-related, with the predictable ad hominem blather to boot. Keep it comin'.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 12:13 PM

***waves to Pspace!!!*** Are you moved and settled in yet?

Q 2. - Clearly not moved by Pinkman? That was the new and aggressive Fed, courtesy of either Paul A. or his own boredom with losing passively.

Q 1 - don't bother to find out. totally not worth your time.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 08/11/2010 at 12:16 PM

what Syd said.


I'll pass on this one.

Posted by Pspace 08/11/2010 at 12:16 PM

Hey CL!! Am moving over the course of this month. Bleh. Hence, not too much time for tennis. Fed looked pretty shoddy to my eyes...but I really don't like ultra-aggressive tennis. Can watch Serena or Masha do that instead. Anyhoo, catch y'all later. Gotta run.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 12:17 PM

Andrew - I am mildly miffed at you. You remind me of one of those movie pr types who takes a reviewer's "Fantastically Bad" and turns it into "Fantastic!" Tsk.

Yes, I did say that Roger was as "erratic as hail." Which, in the first set, IMO, he was. But I ALSO said how impressed I was with a.) how her righted the ship, b.) his aggressive returns, (did he chip more than one or two second serves?), and c.) the thundering nature of his FHs.

Really, try for Fair and Balanced next time...'kay? ;-))

Posted by highpockets 08/11/2010 at 12:28 PM

Thanks, Pete ... looking forward to reading the rest of your observations about this human dynamo.

Sean Hannity's endless recitation of conservative "talking points" turns me off, so I don't watch him much. There's no gray area on his show. Everything is seen through the prism of right vs left. But I don't find him to be mean-spirited and insulting like Keith Olberman, who looks down his nose so much he's going cross-eyed.

As for my personal political opinions, I do have some strong views, but mostly I'm a work-in-progress and always will be. I'm open to hearing different views on issues, but I'm not open to the hostility that permeates the air these days.

I'm glad to hear that Sean Hannity is a well-balanced person when it comes to family and personal relationships and that he's crazy about tennis. I also like the fact that he believes in something bigger than himself.

Does he ever visit us here?

BTW, I thought you were going to be interviewing "The Donald". :)

Posted by Malcolm Tucker 08/11/2010 at 12:32 PM

'Gotcha journalism'?

Glad to see you reciting talking points from Sarah Palin's press releases. Looking forward to a piece on 'lamestream media' next.

Posted by Texastennis 08/11/2010 at 12:48 PM

NP - your condescension is offensive. I'm not a kiddie & I'm fully aware of the partisan nature of politics. I'm also that Hannity and his like are ruining political debate in this country to all our loss, regardless of political position. (There are many right wing politicos who are able to engage in substantive and useful discussion.) It's not a matter of not wanting to read anything about people I disagree with.

Moreover it's a (or another) sign that Tennis magazine has completely lost its way that Pete thinks this is a good idea for a feature. I'm so not interested in celebrity puff pieces of any kind in my tennis magazine.

Posted by Sarah 08/11/2010 at 12:55 PM

Interesting article Pete -- I'm looking forward to reading the more extended post. And how fun it is to read comments from people who -- though of course Hannity is not worth the bother -- have to toddle over here and actually take the time to write comments about how he's not worth the bother. ; > )

I've listened to Hannity -- I find him a bit of a softie and somewhat lightweight intellectually although generally I'm a conservative as he is politically. But he seems like a good guy and someone I'd enjoy chatting with.

RE: "This fellow Hannity though is one of the reasons why America is in the divided state that it now is."

On the contrary -- America was already divided radically prior to Hannity -- Hannity merely points it out and reveals that deep division. America's left and right just don't share the same foundational worldviews or values regarding freedom, the Constitution, individual liberty, the role of the State in our country's lives, etc. Doesn't make either side "bad" or "good" -- it is what it is. I fall on the conservative side -- have plenty of great friends who are liberals. We don't discuss politics that much -- we've already discerned that we're not going to agree due to those foundational difference -- but we have great times chatting about other topics, including the wonders of tennis.

Hannity -- nor any other left or right-wing pundit -- should not get any blame at all for "America being divided." They're all just commenting on the division that already exists and is growing wider, since those antithetical foundational differences don't have any chance at reconciliation or partnership *politically speaking*.

Thanks again, Pete -- I've read your articles with pleasure on left-wingers and tennis and I'll read them with pleasure on right wingers as well.

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 12:58 PM

@Matt Zemak: agree with your thoughts about entertainment masquerading as journalism. Limbaugh used that as his "get out of jail" pass as well. These guys are charlatans, getting rich on the willfully ignorant and fearful american public who want to blame every social ill on the "other."

I wouldn't say we've been dumbed down because we've always been dumb. We've just embedded this culture to a degree that has damaged thoughtful discussion that might actually surface real solutions to the challenges we're facing.

Seeing the person behind the curtain is more provocative for me, because it reinforces the true value system he holds = it's all about the money.

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 01:01 PM

Tt: NP rarely writes a post that does not teem with sneering disdain about fellow posters.

I just snicker because if we're all so lame, why does NP bother?

Posted by Master Ace 08/11/2010 at 01:04 PM

This is a red meat post as most people are hanging out at Blogging Advisory until today's news thread is posted.

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 01:15 PM

MA - red meat indeed.

Posted by Texastennis 08/11/2010 at 01:24 PM

I've never seen Pete write anything about a leftwing person. When was that?
And - no "celebrity" puff pieces of ANY kind in tennis magazine. That's the marks the bottom of a long slippage for us and after reading it since 1976, we will not be renewing this time now that's their idea of appropriate content.

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 01:28 PM

Good lord, people!

I think it's interesting how differently people deal with disliking a person's views/actions in the political arena.

I personally can't stand to listen to Hannity, because he is cartoonishly black & white, and far far far to the right of my position. I also believe that shows like his have led to a deterioration of the political dialog in this country.

HOWEVER...a human being is a complex organism, and I frequently find that, if I'm willing to pay attention and not throw the whole person out with the unliked aspects (or the baby out with the bathwater), I can find common ground with most people.

And, IMHO, one of the most sublime things in life is connecting with another human being.
If you are open to it, even with people who have diametrically opposed views from yours, you can bring about a narrowing of the gap, and find you are more alike than dissimilar.

And I'm quite sure that, for all his rhetoric, that Hannity himself *does not* hate people with different views. His relationship with Alan Colmes is a testament to that.

As divisive and potentially damaging as I believe Hannity's ideology to be, I am equally frightened of some people's penchant for hating people with opposing views, which is at least as prevalent on the left side of the aisle as on the right.

The right has no corner on the market of righteous indignation.

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 01:29 PM

...and that would be "dialogue", not "dialog"...

Posted by Sarah 08/11/2010 at 01:32 PM

RE: "no "celebrity" puff pieces of ANY kind in tennis magazine . . . "

Whaaa? Tennis magazine has been doing that for at least a decade. Guess it's been a loooooonnnnnngggggg decline!

Runners World does the same thing -- usually on the back page -- a puff piece about a celebrity -- *often* political -- who runs and what kind of impact running has on their life. I enjoy those pieces, whether left-wing or right-wing.

But no matter -- I expect Tennis Magazine to lose subscribers for any number of reasons -- print magazines are seriously in decline.

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 01:33 PM

And +1 CWATC

Posted by Sarah 08/11/2010 at 01:36 PM

RE: "I've never seen Pete write anything about a leftwing person."

Don't recall the names -- I just remember reading and thinking "wonder if I, as a conservative, should be offended . . . nah!" ; > )

Posted by Nam1 08/11/2010 at 01:53 PM

"What Hannity provides is lies and rabble rousing. He's not a journalist by any measure. No good service to civil society or democratic debate is provided by that kind of voice. Shouting other people down regardless of the validity of their views isn't a contribution to the open exchange of viewpoints on which we could have some useful discussion. I couldn't care less about what kind of tennis parent he is - and I certainly don't want to read any soft feel good story about Hannity in Tennis magazine. "


Being Canadian, its hilarious to hear the things FOX news in general has to offer but I do think that its a big let down when I have to read teasers about "a media and sports personality" and then find out its Sean Hannity!!!

BTW what do they feed these guys like Hannity and O'Reilly over there; do they have to take a course in "obnoxious behaviour" or is it a pre-requisite for the job?

My fav interview is Jon Stewart at Bill O'Reilly's show...too hysterically funny.

Moving over to Tignor's blog...

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 01:58 PM

Vetmama - completely agree about the complexities of the human organism. Unfortunately Mr. Hannity, (his relationship with the hapless alan Colmes notwithstanding.), seems not to grasp that very point. But its ok, as you are 'dead to me' anyway for cheering for Nalby ;-))

CWATC - there is many a slip between presenting rational opposing views on political or social questions and the slope of re-ordering observable reality to suit your narrow world view, gauged to inflame and incite while misinforming. I believe it is called "propaganda" and, like the kid in the New Yorker cartoon when presented with something labeled broccoli, " I say its spinach and I say to hail with it."

Posted by Texastennis 08/11/2010 at 02:00 PM

I don't recall any such articles about anyone "left wing", Sarah. Pretty sure there hasn't been any puff piece about Noam Chomsky or whoever the equivalent might be. I agree the decline has been long although it's been accelerating. And I'd think any such piece equally out of place. Who gives a you know what about what kind of tennis parent any "celebrity" is?

And I don't "hate" Hannity at all or anyone on the basis they disagree with me. I'm full of commitment to civil and productive conversation among people who disagree, but Hannity & his ilk is not interested in any such debate and therein lies the problem. While it's true that thread of "just shout down" the opposition has always existed on both sides, it's grown enormously in recent years - linked in no small part as someone noted above to particular corporate media practices.

It's true that all print media faces some serious challenges but there's such a thing as hastening your own demise which Tennis seems set on. I have been having some nostalgic thoughts about when I first started reading Tennis (from 1976 on as I said) when every new monthly issue marked something to look forward to at a time when very little other tennis news was available. All things come to an end as they say. So has my Tennis readership phase...

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 02:07 PM

"There are lots of people who I disagree with profoundly on politics who are first class parents and interesting people to be around. There are many people who check all my boxes politically who are neither of the above. So it goes."


Why am I not surprised I completely agree with you.:)

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 02:11 PM

Nam 1 - Though he would deny with a gun to his head, Jon Stewart the closest thing to ACTUAL journalism that cable tv provides. Ck out Steve's thread, but there are also a bunch of people back on the 'Blogging Advisory' thread.

Posted by Sarah 08/11/2010 at 02:22 PM

RE: "I don't recall any such articles about anyone "left wing", Sarah."

Oh I'm confident that anyone I thought left-wing you would think "perfectly normal." And so it goes.

That's the point. Things have been written on left-wingers till the cows come home, time after time in the print magazine -- at least, from this conservative's point of view. But when it's actually noticed is when a right-winger is written about. Then, of course, it's beyond the pale!

All it does is just reveal again that we're a very divided country. We just don't agree about some really fundamental things. On the left, it's unacceptable and horrible that Tennis Magazine should write about Sean Hannity and his love of tennis. But write about Chris Matthews or Elton John or Al Franken or James Carville and their love of tennis -- and that's perfectly unexceptionable and alright.

It all boils down to:

Sean Hannity =/ Bad
Al Franken [or whatever other celeb who's left of center] = Good

Sean Hannity = not a person to write about regarding tennis
Left-wingers = a person to write about regarding tennis

The eery thing is that when one points out that Matthews, John, Franken [insert any other here] are left-wing and why is it that it's okay they get articles, vociferous are the cries that they're not "really left wing" and they're normal.

But again, it all just boils down to the inarguable fact that we're very divided, we don't agree, we hold antithetical and irreconcilable worldviews, and it's a race to try to prevent the "normalization" of anyone on either side of the chasm who holds opposite views to the complainer.


You can see it on this very thread. Folks know not to argue about whether Hannity is a "nice normal guy" in his family life. So they postulate that really Hannity's work life is the "artificial" one. Rather than what it is -- a guy who has a passion for a politically conservative worldview and figuring out how to make a good living at it -- they have to pretend as if it's really somehow some sort of insincere artificial act -- that's how great the cognitive dissonance is between the "nice family guy" and the "mean rascally evil divisive conservative political guy" for the liberal.

I don't begrudge anyone's being able to take their passion for an idea or activity -- like tennis -- and make money at it. It's a good thing.

It doesn't surprise me at all to discover that James Carville -- as pronounced and bloviating and blustering as he is for his own political worldview -- is a nice family guy. I'm happy he's found a way to make a living at something that is a passion of his, which is promoting his own particularly foundational worldview about the Constitution, the role of the State, etc, etc, however mutually opposed it is from my own worldview.

Posted by FedFan 08/11/2010 at 02:22 PM

I am sorry but your stock went down with this article. There are a lot of famous people who love tennis but why Hannity? Are we going to see Sarah Palin next (if you learn that she loves tennis)?

Posted by gabos 08/11/2010 at 02:22 PM

Bodo is friends with Sean Hannity... NOT a surprise.

Posted by Sarah 08/11/2010 at 02:24 PM

Pete, I am happy but your stock went up with this article.

At least . . . with some.

; > )

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 02:26 PM

Glad you're holding seances and still talking to dead people...:)

I guess I'm sensitive to this issue because of the animosity I saw on this site during the last presidential election cycle.
Some people here, mostly on the left of the political spectrum, openly talked about their hatred of the people on the right, and it saddened me.
I know of at least one poster who was very upset by it, although she didn't speak up.

Hannity's behavior on his show is horrendous. He relishes shouting down people, which turns my stomach.
He's certainly not someone I would seek out as a friend, but I've heard numerous times that, on a personal level, he's a warm loyal friend and that his social circle includes people of all political perspectives.
Pete's post supports that as well.

I'm just appalled by the vitriol that can come from my side of the political debate as well.

If we can't learn to bring down the temperature of the debate on *both* sides, we're doomed.

Posted by Sarah 08/11/2010 at 02:28 PM

Pete -- any chance that Bill Buckley was a lover of tennis? Perhaps you could do a retrospective on that and add more admirers!!!!!

[kidding . . . scuttling away now]

Posted by John Culhane 08/11/2010 at 02:31 PM

I might have missed it, but I didn't see anyone make the obvious correction: not religious "tenant"; religious "tenet."

Doesn't seem like Hannity's error, but it's somehow apt that it appears in a quote attributed to him, because he's hardly concerned about accuracy in anything. If intelligent right-of-center commentary is what you're looking for, don't tune in Hannity.

I'm torn between these impulses:
"The fact that he's of a political stripe I detest doesn't disqualify him from being featured in a tennis story."
"Why are celebrity tennis stories interesting, anyway?"

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 02:32 PM

"Sean Hannity =/ Bad
Al Franken [or whatever other celeb who's left of center] = Good"


really, there is, as far as I can tell only ONE person that thinks a Tennis Magazine/column is not an appropriate place for a 'celebrity'/political' tennis related piece. Virtually everyone else simply doesn't like Hannity but isn't challenging Pete's 'right' or even correctness in posting the piece. Which is an entirely different kettle of rotten fish IMO.

And BTW, if you can point me to a profile piece Pete has done on Elton John I would LOVE to read it. Not for the politics...but I LOVE Sir Elton's music. Always happy to Crocodile Rock. I'm sure any such piece would be a hoot.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 08/11/2010 at 02:35 PM

What Hannity and others of his ilk do is simply find a stump with a wedge protruding from it and grab a sledehammer and start whacking away at it until either the stump cracks open or the wedge gets so deep in there's no pulling it back out. They may not create the divisions, but they surely milk them for all they're worth.

Posted by JB (FOOPs unite!) 08/11/2010 at 02:47 PM

uhm - isn't the point of this this to be looking at a tennis parent?

Isn't it interesting to see the juxtaposition of a public persona, and seeing, or having Pete point out the difference between the public and personal?

Can't this be the grounds for perhaps showing that though you may disagree with part of the beliefs/ chosen life of a someone, you may still find interesting common ground with them? and isn't a primary rule of negotiation, or diplomacy finding that common ground?

so many avenues of discussion that could be opened up here, to talk of family. talent. kids, the fine line between pushing and encouraging. how a tennis can rule, in both a good and a bad way a families life. and choices of vacations.. :) I mean, driving to a tennis tourney? isn't that so like many of Steve's memories of growing that I lurve reading about?

and what we get are stunningly vivid examples of closed mindedness at its best. *shakes head* its a pity.

Posted by Nam1 08/11/2010 at 02:50 PM

CL, I LOVE Jon Stewart; He is my idol and his segment on CNN with Tucker Carlson a few years ago made my year!!

Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 02:52 PM

vetmama - you look lovely in a shroud. ;-))

Of course, hateration, (except when it comes to Nalby;-)), is always divisive and creates bad karma- it infects both individuals and society as a whole. But, honestly, the response to this particular post has surprised me with its relative LACK of vitriol. I mean I think there are LOTS worse things a person could say about Hannity than have been said here. And I don't think you can realistically expect to post a thread about someone SO polarizing, irrespective of any more benign side, without engendering some pushback. Which again, I have found pretty mellow at least in comparison to what passes for political discourse these days. Heck, it is pretty mellow compared to a standard issue Fedal War.

I'm sorry people here got upset by some things that were written back during the election, but surely we are all at least pretending to be adults, (well, almost all), and it is always possible to duck out for a few days until the storm passes. People get 'het up' about politics and don't always express themselves as carefully as they should. Sort of like tennis. :-)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 08/11/2010 at 02:53 PM

Look, it's all World Wide Wrestling (or whatever its caled these days... I'm so out of touch with that sort of thing it's laughable) as Matt Zemeck has intimated. People who are "in the media" -- meaning the living that they make is in a very direct way dependent on how many viewers they can captivate and for how long -- are there to do one thing and one thing only. Sell soap. I make it a point not confuse any of what they do or say or seemingly "represent" on the air with anything in their personal lives.

Posted by MikeDC 08/11/2010 at 03:05 PM

David Dinkins is also a sports nut and tennis junkie. Can't wait to see the glowing article on his thoughts. Surely you hobnob with him too... reading the New York Post and extolling the virtues of Birmingham as a city...

Seriously though, as a bed wetting liberal I would have thought that Hannity likes tennis... so it was an interesting read to me.

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 03:06 PM

I think the point about the juxtaposition is that it makes the persona that pays for all the tennis lessons look fake. And the persona being written about has a platform to spread misinformation. Which he does in an aggressive and inciting way. He panders to peoples' worst selves.

And vetmama, Sarah: the very reasonable tone you take in posting is directly at odds with the in-your-face shouting down theatrics of Hannity and his ilk.

You do not have to disagree with his message to think that his platform is vile.

Posted by MikeDC 08/11/2010 at 03:06 PM

"that Hannity doesn't like tennis" that should have read.

Posted by Kombo 08/11/2010 at 03:09 PM

Hanniity's show blows.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 03:11 PM

CL, agreed that Hannity does not specialize in presenting complexities or shades of grey. It doesn't sound totally out of line to say his show is Republican propaganda. But everyone knows that's what it is.

Personally I prefer that to shows that promote themselves as "objective" but still distort information and propagandize to the same degree anyway.

What to some people is "inflaming" is to others passionately presenting a point of view on a matter that you consider important.

It's not a great show (understatement) but there have been a few times when he has presented important information on topics I'm familiar with which was simply not available on other news shows.

If people rely on Hannity as their only source of news they're not seeing the full picture for sure, but that's true of relying on any one source IMO.

Ideally, I think it's best to get your news from a variety of sources. I consider myself politically independant and I find I prefer reading for example several openly left-wing and then right-wing magazines rather than some of the garbage published in so-called mainstream mags like Time and Newsweek.

Politics is always a touchy issue, glad we can all talk about this pretty amicably :)

Posted by manuelsantanafan 08/11/2010 at 03:13 PM


I caught that "tenant"/"tenet" problem, but figured it was a product of voice recognition-related or transcription error.

As far as Bill Buckley, he was in a different and much preferable universe than is Hannity when it comes to intellectual rigor and respect for his audience and potential audience.

Plenty of highly intelligent and apparently sincere, well-meaning people have disagreed with numerous positions taken by Tony Judt. Reasonable, intelligent people often strongly disagree on important matters. That said, the process--often a laborious one--by which Judt arrived at his positions strikes me as much preferable to the apparently intellectually lazy, demagogic approach Hannity takes on many occasions.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 03:30 PM

MSF, yes from the little I read today Tony Judt seems to have thought deeply and personally to come to his opinions and I respect that. However, since Tony Judt is highly educated and intellectual IMO he has an even greater responsibility than someone like SH to not unfairly inflame and mislead, given the weight his voice carries. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt in that when you passionately hold a political opinion, you want so badly to sway others to your side it's hard to always be fair, or even realize when you may be being unfair.

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 03:32 PM


I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh in the morning and Air America in the evening.

I dare people on both sides of the aisle to try to do this.
It was hard to stomach, but really illuminating if you were trying to get a accurate picture of the players on both extremes of the spectrum.

Posted by Mike 08/11/2010 at 03:37 PM

Please ... for every over the top right winger there is a left leaner spitting just as much sarcasm and venom. See Ed Schultz. I can't even enjoy watching the Daily Show anymore thanks to Jon Stewart's biting and angry political spewing. Both sides spend nearly all their time mocking the other + accomplishing little else, IMHO.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 03:51 PM

You are my hero! But I agree it can be hard to stomach and if I'm emotionally involved in an issue there are times when I just can't "stand" to hear the propaganda of the "other side."

Posted by Texastennis 08/11/2010 at 03:53 PM

"But write about Chris Matthews or Elton John or Al Franken or James Carville and their love of tennis and that's perfectly acceptable."

I guess I missed those articles ...

Plus I don't want to read about ANY "celebrity" on being a tennis parent - what is the value of that? I'm a tennis parent whose kids might play in college with just as much insight as this. Anyone want to publish a puff piece on me?

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 03:59 PM

vetmama: just because one can stomach something that doesn't mean one should do it. I can go for a run when it's +100 out or wait till it drops into the 80s.

I don't need to tough it out. To what end?

Hannity is a high school graduate with an honorary degree from Jerry Falwell's "university."

Glen Beck - one class @ Yale. Rush Limbaugh 1 year at some MO uni.

What do they have in common? 8-figure incomes based on pandering to fearful and close-minded people who probably vote against their own economic interests, think gay marriage is the biggest threat to american democracy, and don't think Obama is a US citizen.

They are 3 snake-oil salesmen with a huge media platform who elicit the worst sides of people's character.


Posted by Mike 08/11/2010 at 04:07 PM

Wow ... taking things out of context, going from one extreme to another when comparing apples to oranges. Just like MSNBC. ;)

Posted by vetmama 08/11/2010 at 04:12 PM

AB, obviously I didn't do it to torture myself. It gave a large amount of insight into a large group of people in my country.

And you obviously know something about Hannity as well. But did you learn it second-hand from those who believe as you do, or by listening to his show yourself?
I personally don't trust second-hand accounts and always try to go to the primary source when I'm trying to understand anything.

And, FWIW, I found the same type of strategies on the other polar extreme.
Same shouting, truth-bending and lack of intelligence - different ideology.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 08/11/2010 at 04:13 PM

Hey, everyone. :)

I daresay it's shockingly ignorant but I had never heard of Sean Hannity till I read this. Not my favourite kind of journalism most likely but then it isn't my favourite kind of journalism regardless of political colour.

"...He likes tennis because of the values it teaches and promotes." That's interesting to me as I suspect it does say something about his politics in a broad sense. Not being critical, just seems interesting.

Murray is down a break against Malisse. (Hope this is the right place for this.) I like Malisse...but come on, Andy!

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 04:18 PM

@Mike - like it or not, these are the themes that have grossly enriched these guys.

Pete himself used teasers like "polarizing" and "political" to market the piece.

False equivalencies do not a "comparison" make.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro to the haters, don't you wish your pusher was hott like me. 08/11/2010 at 04:20 PM

AB, that is hysterical because that is exactly who they appeal to. Add that wacky woman from Alaska who thought she was a foreign relations expert because she can "see Russia from her backdoor." "You betcha!"

Posted by Pete 08/11/2010 at 04:36 PM

New and particularly timely post on Malisse up now. . .

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 04:38 PM

Hi vetmama: one time was all the "medicine" I needed.

And, no, I do not take my views 2nd hand.

I don't think the left espouses violent overthrow of the government. Impassioned views don't bother me. Calls for violence bother me quite a bit. Tennis fan and dad Hannity has gotten rich off of stoking these dangerous flames.

I prefer appeals to our better nature. I've seen groups from both sides and the right by a long margin over the left espouses radical violent response to views they disagree with.

I live in the US, btw, but I also lived in Europe for many years. The average European citizen is so much better informed about domestic and foreign issues than the average US citizen.

Posted by Ruth 08/11/2010 at 04:39 PM

The gap between Bill Buckley and the Limbaughs and Hannitys is almost as large as the gap between what is considered conservative politics and liberal politics/thought.

jb: Maybe, some folk are being "close-minded"; but I think that, if a person hears an opinion or attitude, considers it, and chooses to reject it completely (and that is what most people have done here), that person does NOT deserve to be labeled as close-minded simply because he/she rejects or decries something that he/she sees as wrong or unacceptable.

Posted by Pete 08/11/2010 at 04:53 PM

AB, The claim that the threat, danger, and execution of violence by the right is greater than that of the left really stands out and seems to me patently false. I don't remember the right threatening or trying to bring down the Democratic convention(s), those G8 meetings, or even vandalizing CNN trucks on the campaign trail. Let's be honest here.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 04:55 PM

Certainly there is sth to be said for the quality of the news source and there are far better right wing sources than Limbaugh, Hannity, et al. (And better left wing sources than Olbermann!)

But even those guys have a team of researchers supplying their information; it's not like they're telling you stuff off the top of their heads. And if you are sceptical of sth you can always google it to learn more.

And I have never heard Hannity call for violent overthrow of the government; he spends hours going over minor congressional races and pouring over various election scenarios.

Posted by @work 08/11/2010 at 04:56 PM

"I think that, if a person hears an opinion or attitude, considers it, and chooses to reject it completely (and that is what most people have done here), that person does NOT deserve to be labeled as close-minded simply because he/she rejects or decries something that he/she sees as wrong or unacceptable"


Posted by sans nom 08/11/2010 at 05:06 PM

Where can we petition to have Bobby or Andrew write more about ACTUAL tennis? Because at this rate, Pete is liable to do a piece on a flat-earth creationist who also happens to be a tennis nut! It'll be a way to give a voice to a poor victim of "gotcha science" who just happens to be a very nice tennis parent.

Posted by CWATC 08/11/2010 at 05:08 PM

"I think that, if a person hears an opinion or attitude, considers it, and chooses to reject it completely (and that is what most people have done here), that person does NOT deserve to be labeled as close-minded simply because he/she rejects or decries something that he/she sees as wrong or unacceptable"

There is a difference between "opinion and attitude" versus information. Someone may think a certain player is an arrogant SOB. Then they read an article w/ yet another annoying interview quote confirming their opinion even more. But then a KAD of the player posts pointing out that this particular article took that quote out of context, and links to the full interview and low and behold, it was out of context. This one incident may not change the overall opinion of that player, but still the original person is better informed. Maybe someday in the future, as he/she learns more, the overall opinion may change. Or maybe not. Still, isn't it better that the KAD got to post?

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 08/11/2010 at 05:13 PM

In a word...Ugh!!!

Posted by Sherlock 08/11/2010 at 05:17 PM

I want Pete to do an article on Keith Olbermann and see what the posts are like. :)

Actually, a good discussion here, gang. Beats the one from the last presidential election. Thanks to Vetmama, CWATC, @work, AB, Matt, Andrew, CL, Slice, and many others.

Posted by Pete 08/11/2010 at 05:20 PM

Gonna close this one down folks, I appreciate the restraint most of you showed. Frankly, I was worried about that when I wrote the post. It made me proud of the readership of TW.

One thing that struck me during the long interview with Sean, which focused almost exclusively on tennis, was that he sees nothing insidious or dangerous or discomfort-inducing about spirited debate. I think he's an up-from-nothing, hard-working guy who was very lucky to find a platform and make the most of it in a rapidly changing media - and cultural - climate, and at a particularly tension-fraught time.

I agree entirely with those who suggest that he's a symptom not a cause of the present, divided state of things. I believe President Obama is a "divider" too (how many more straw men can he set up in speeches where he start off, "There are some who say. . ."?)

And let's not forget, for those of you who count yourselves as believers or merely like the discussion, that Jesus Christ was a great divider, too. The historical facts support this, I think, even if most people choose to emphasize the "peacemaker" aspect of Jesus. Dividers are necessary, to make us confront what we really believe.

We all, or most of us, want to "do the right thing." If only we knew how. Which is one of the reasons I find the self-congratulatory flaunting of the peace sign so irritating.

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