A Q&A With Gov. Tommy ThompsonS

Unlike most of the rest of America, we're already entranced by the 2008 Presidential race, even though we're, uh, still 17 months away from the election. (We have a history of being way too into this business way too early.) At this point, most candidates are just trying to raise money and elbow for position; if you watched the Democratic debate last night, you mostly saw the three frontrunners holding their ground while everyone else vied for camera time. It's incredibly entertaining, for us anyway, to watch.

We felt that we had to involve ourselves somehow, bring a little bit of the sports world to the laborious process of choosing the leader of the free world. So today, we proudly introduce Deadspin's Guide To The Candidates, a series of interviews with the men (and woman, hopefully) who want to be the person in charge of the Big Button for the next four years. We are not interested in this being a partisan exercise; we'll be interviewing candidates from both sides of the aisle, and heck, maybe we'll even track down one of the guys from the Legalize Pot party, if that still exists. The idea is to see how sports have shaped the lives of the candidates, what their take on sports-related issues are, how much they care about the games we all spend too much time obsessing over. We feel you can learn a lot about a person by their sports allegiances.

Some campaigns have been more eager to be a part of this than others, but we've got a few people committed and few people eying us warily. We do hope that our commenters will be welcoming to everyone who decides to take part.

Our first candidate is Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican from Wisconsin. He served as Wisconsin's governor from 1987 to 2001 and was the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2005. And he is a Packers fan. Our interview with him is after the jump.

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First off, we know politicians don't want to offend any potential voters, but who's your favorite team? Are you a Packers guy?

Definitely. You can't change your loyalties — especially those that are ingrained in you — just because you're running for public office.

What's your favorite sports memory, either in person or otherwise?

Attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans to watch the Packers beat the Patriots.

Are you glad Brett Favre is coming back for one more year? Are the Packers going to be any good this year?

I am without a doubt happy Brett is coming back. He's good for the Packers, good for Wisconsin and good for football.

The Packers have a real opportunity. The primary competition in NFC Central is the Bears, of course, and all they have to do is make the playoffs. After that, anything can happen.

You're a Harley guy. What do you think of Ben Roethlisberger's insistence that he not wear his helmet?

I always tell people they should wear helmets, but I don't believe government should mandate it.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, you've done plenty on physical fitness initiatives. Are kids still too out of shape? When you consider how awful Little League parents often are, are youth sports worth it?

Yes, kids — and adults — are too darn fat today. And that is primarily because they are not active enough any more. When I was growing up, and when my kids were growing up, we played baseball all day in the spring and summer and football all day in the fall. Now, too many kids play football and baseball only on video games. While there is a place for video games, we need to make sure kids are getting out and getting some exercise — whether in the neighborhoods or by bringing back physical education classes in school.

As for youth sports, they are absolutely worth it. They teach kids teamwork, cooperation and the rules of the game.

When you were governor, you surely made plenty of those friendly governor wagers with governors of other states over a certain game. (We think you made one for the Super Bowl.) What was your favorite one? Did everybody always pay up?

My favorite was with Governor Weld of Massachusetts. We laid out products from Wisconsin and Massachusetts. I won. Yes, everyone always paid up. You don't want to be the politician that doesn't make good on a bet. Deadspin (and others) would have a field day with that.

What's your view on the prevalence of steroids in sports? Are people making too big a deal out of it, or not? If you were offered tickets to the game in which Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's record, would you go?

It is sad that steroids have become widespread in sports, since so many young people look up to these athletes as role models. And no, I would not go watch Barry Bonds break Hank Aaron's record.

What did you think of the testimony that Pat Tillman's family gave before Congress?

It was difficult to see and read about. Your heart goes out to anyone who loses a loved one on the battlefield, and we need to make sure we are doing all we can for our veterans, their families and the families of those left behind. We need to be as open and accommodating with them as possible and give them the resources and information they need to move forward with their lives.

Do you believe baseball should keep its anti-trust exemption?

No.

If all the presidential candidates were to take part in a decathlon, who would win?

Me! But can I pick some of the events?

Who's going to win the Super Bowl this year?

The Packers, of course. I pick them every year.