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Super Bowl Makes For Strange Bedfellows


In 2003, as part of a story on the Presidential Physical Fitness challenge, I interviewed NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. At the time, Swann was the chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He offered some sobering advice on how adults could find the motivation to exercise and eat healthy.

"There are about 300,000 a year who will die because of obesity or obesity related diseases or illnesses," Swann said. "I don't want to be one of them."

The President for whom Swann served was George W. Bush. Swann proudly reported that his boss ran sub-7-minute miles. He had far less flattering things to say about Bush's predecessor, who was seen at McDonald's as often as he was seen in running gear.

"I believe therein lies the difference between a commitment to a lifestyle and maybe just a photo op," Swann said.

With workout tips straight from a four-time Super Bowl champion, this public radio reporter and former couch potato earned her Presidential Physical Fitness certificate. Over time, I lost some weight and eventually ran a half marathon. Just a few months ago, I ran another.

From time to time, I've thought back on my conversation with Mr. Swann and hoped that he would be proud of the modest but healthy gains I'd made over the past nine years.

Lynn Swann has made changes in his life, too. In 2006 he ran for governor of Pennsylvania, and in 2008 he considered a bid for the US House of Representatives.

So, when I received a call from a publicist offering Lynn Swann as a Super Bowl expert, I enthusiastically asked for more information.

The press release that arrived in my inbox was not what I had expected.

Describing Swann as a man who earned "four rings of his own," the press release proudly proclaimed that Swann was now "giving everyone across America a chance to get their own rings—onion rings, that is."

Yep. This Super Bowl season, Lynn Swann will be occupying a spot on Radio Row in Indianapolis, dispensing advice on "what it takes to win" the Super Bowl and encouraging Americans to drop by their local Burger King for free onion rings.

Swann has every right to accept employment wherever he sees fit, but given his lifetime of work supporting health and fitness, I'm left with a few questions.

Has America solved its obesity problem? Are fewer fat kids getting picked on in school? Are fewer obese adults dying prematurely?

In short, does Lynn Swann have a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, or is he maybe just looking for a photo op?

This program aired on January 26, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Karen Given Twitter Senior Producer, Only A Game
Karen is the senior producer for WBUR's Only A Game.


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