John McCain: We argued sports as POWs - NBC Sports

John McCain: We argued sports as POWs
During his time as a POW in Vietnam, John McCain used code to argue sports with fellow prisoners.
May 2, 2014, 12:30 pm

Arizona Senator John McCain joined The Dan Patrick Show to discuss sports and the impact athletics had on his life -- even during his time spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, when he says he and fellow POWs used to routinely argue about sports by tapping on each other’s cell walls.

McCain, a boxer during his time with the Navy, spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war, nearly three of those in solitary confinement. Even during his very rough detention, sports weren’t far from his thoughts.

The senator said he was able to communicate through the wall with his neighboring POW by using a “simple tap code.”

“And, what was a big subject? Sports.”

“The guy next to me, his favorite athlete was Stan Musial. He worshipped him,” McCain said. “Ted Williams was [my favorite athlete] and we would go back-and-fourth.”

The former presidential candidate goes on to tell Patrick that whenever a new prisoner would arrive at the compound, all he would want to know was who won the Super Bowl.

“Sports was a huge thing.”

To this day, McCain’s passion for sports hasn’t faded. Two of the greatest experiences of his life revolve around sports. The first was when the Purple Heart recipient spent an afternoon with his childhood idol Ted Williams.

“He wanted to know about politics and I wanted to know about baseball.”

McCain was once told the late Ted Williams, a veteran of the Navy and Marine Corps., was the best natural pilot he had ever seen.

“He spent three seasons in World War II and Korea, where he was called back,” recalled McCain. “Can you imagine what his numbers would have been if he hadn’t lost those three seasons?”

McCain says one of the other greatest moments in his life came when he was at the World Series with then New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani. The Series took place just over a month after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

“They put [Giuliani’s] face on the Jumbotron in our stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, and 45,000 people stood and cheered.”

With a busy schedule like McCain’s, one might think sports have slipped out of his life, but that is not the case.

“My wife and kids are involved with sports,” he said.  “One thing is, we watch a lot of sports together and we go to [games in Phoenix].”

Though, the senator notes, it has not been a great year for Arizona teams.

Bill Leopold is an associate producer for