This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 27, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Tennis star John McEnroe's on-the-court intensity was the stuff of legend. His passion to compete helped him win 17 Grand Slam titles, including seven singles titles. And it also led to more than one heated exchange with some of the umpires on the sidelines. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 1991 WIMBLEDON)
JOHN MCENROE, TENNIS LEGEND: Come on now! That ball was barely outside the line. What ball were you watching? That's a break point. There were no lines. It didn't hit any chalk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Now these days he's refocused his passion to raise awareness about prostate cancer, an illness, by the way, that his father was treated for just three years ago.
And starting this Monday you can catch him at the U.S. Open, where he's going to be broadcasting live with his brother Patrick for ESPN.
Tennis great, John McEnroe, good to see you.
MCENROE: Good to see you.
• Video: Watch Sean's interview
HANNITY: First of all, you know, I don't fawn over guests a lot, but I've been a fan of yours for all these years. And I'm a huge fan of tennis, and it's really great to meet you.
MCENROE: Well, it's nice to meet you. You don't even remember, I was on your radio show years ago.
HANNITY: I do.
MCENROE: When I was hawking my book, which thanks to you helped reach No. 1 for a couple of weeks.
HANNITY: It did.
MCENROE: New York Times best seller list. We were seen together at a Kid Rock show with Lynyrd Skynyrd. So we didn't speak that day, but there's some connections there.
HANNITY: There's a lot of connections.
MCENROE: We're Long Island boys.
HANNITY: Yes, you're from — I was from Franklin Square, you were from Douglas.
Can you — when you look back, and I listen to your commentary. I can't believe, you made a great transition into broadcasting. Was that easy? Hard?
MCENROE: Well, it was easier than I thought it was. In some ways I had to learn a little bit about looking at the camera, that one over there maybe a little bit.
But generally I thought, like, what's the big deal? I mean, I should know what I'm talking about. I've been down there and been there, done that. And so why do people act surprised?
But I think the difference was that I tried to come with a little bit more personality, show that there's a little bit more fun.
My late great friend, Sean, Vitus Gerulaitis, who passed away about 15 years ago, did commentary. We played in the finals at the U.S. Open by the way, 30 years ago.
He was the guy that got me thinking, you know something? There's a guy that's having fun. He was eating a hot dog while he was doing the opening. If I do commentary, I want to do it like him.
HANNITY: Look, I have had U.S. Open — I have a box for the entire Open. I've had it for, what, five years now. And I go as often as I can. Last year I couldn't go because the two conventions were going on at the time, and it drove me nuts.
I don't know what it is about tennis. I just think it's one of the greatest sports. I don't know if people realize the level of skill that it takes. Were you born with this? Did you work at it? Did you — how did it...
MCENROE: Well, first of all, I love sports. I played every sport imaginable. It turned out, when I moved, three or four different places in Douglas, in Queens.
But my parents moved a block and a half away from a tennis club. It only had swimming and tennis. I didn't like swimming a whole lot, so I started hitting against the back board. And there were some pros there, saying, "Wait a minute. This guy can play."
HANNITY: How old were you at that point?
MCENROE: Eight and a half.
HANNITY: That's about my — I have my son here. That's...
MCENROE: Patrick looks like he has a future. He's got a good name, you know, for starters.
HANNITY: That's your brother's name. Of course.
MCENROE: But after that, I mean, people saw things, but I fell into the right situations. But I think if you believe in a Lord above, I think that person up there thought for some reason that John McEnroe should be on the tennis court and raise a racket.
MCENROE: And I can play a little bit, too.
HANNITY: But where did this intensity come from? Because I think that's got to be innate. What I've always loved about watching your game was you just — you were in it and you wanted to win. And you were competitive and you were fighting, and you didn't want to lose. I mean, I love that spirit.
MCENROE: It's a combination of where I grew up, Queens, living in New York. You're lucky if a bunch of people don't yell at you on the way from the airport in the cab.
But my dad in a lot of ways, we talked about survived prostate cancer, doing well. He used to often tell me, "Son, you can do it. You can be the best player." The way he said it, like, "You can do it! You can be the best!"
HANNITY: Yes. And...
MCENROE: So you get the idea that that didn't seem like a big deal. When I went to England for the first time, they looked like I was crazy, but to me that was normal.
HANNITY: For all the — when you would get angry — I know you're probably sick and tired of answering this question — was it genuine anger? You were just mad, frustration? Did it — because you're one of the few players that I felt could get emotionally upset and help your game.
MCENROE: Well, I noticed that that worked. The first six, eight years of my career I was into it. I wanted to change the sport. I thought these umpires were a bunch of bums, that no one knew what they were talking about. That majors didn't care about the players.
Now when I play, I go on the champions tour later in my career...
MCENROE: ... you've got add a little pizzazz. They expect it. If I don't yell, "You cannot be serious!" at least one time, they think that they're not getting their money's worth. They don't care if I hit 15 winners in a row. So it's become a bit of an act, a little bit of a parody. It's a little bit sad, Sean.
But, look at 50, I'm here raising awareness for prostate cancer. I'm here as an ambassador for tennis. So that's not — I mean, who would have put my name next to ambassador 25 years ago?
HANNITY: There were 17 Grand Slam tournaments.
MCENROE: That's two more than Federer.
HANNITY: I think — exactly.
MCENROE: Admittedly, we're counting doubles and mixed.
HANNITY: All right, but that's fair. But you know what? They count. A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam.
MCENROE: I'm counting them right now, because at this rate he'll break it in about six months.
HANNITY: Well, he's watching, Federer, right now, and I'm sure he's mad.
I thought the match with Andy Roddick and — and Federer was one of the best matches I've ever saw.
MCENROE: Absolutely, drama-wise. It reminded me a lot at the end, when he was down, he lost that. My match with Borg in '80. I thought, how does this guy find another year, the way Federer did this time?
But hopefully, he'll get inspired, because I got hungrier. I thought, these guys are unbelievable champions. You've got to find another gear.
I think Roddick can do it, and this is — he's going to have a lot of support here. Definitely one of the best matches. Last year Nadal-Federer was one of the best matches I ever saw in my life.
HANNITY: Yes, I thought it was one of the best.
MCENROE: Unless you want to tell me my match with Borg in '80 was better.
HANNITY: Well, I remember where I was watching that match, by the way, which was a phenomenal match.
MCENROE: Where were you?
HANNITY: I was actually at the Merry Pedlar in Floral Park in New York watching the match.
MCENROE: The Merry — is that a bar?
HANNITY: That was owned by the little — the guy who owned the Little Neck Inn, which you know.
MCENROE: I know it is a bar.
HANNITY: Well, it's actually a restaurant/bar.
Well, I would like to see more Americans do a little bit better in tennis sometimes. Andy Roddick seems to be...
MCENROE: We're having a bit of a problem and a lull. Hopefully, this will inspire people. I'm hoping to start an academy in the New York area, because I was inspired by the troops. And I think we can feed off each other. Certainly in more countries they're giving a lot more opportunities to kids, way more than it seems like there are in America.
HANNITY: Do you think maybe some American kids are — are a little spoiled?
MCENROE: I would say that that's...
HANNITY: Maybe they're not as — no, no, they're not as hungry.
MCENROE: The answer is yes.
HANNITY: The answer's yes.
MCENROE: But at the same time look at Federer and Nadal, the both best players in the men's game. Federer grew up in Switzerland, relatively well off. Nadal grew up in Majorca. Who would have thought a guy — that's like a summer resort, like going to the Hamptons or something. So he still can do it.
It doesn't mean you have to be in Russia, leave your parents when you're 3 or come from a war-torn zone in Bosnia or Serbia the way Jokavitz or some of these other players have.
I think that we can get it done. I didn't come from that bad a place. I mean, Douglas and Queens is a pretty nice area. And so I...
HANNITY: How much is skill versus natural talent?
MCENROE: Well, I think it's a combination. I think it's very similar. I think you're born...
HANNITY: Skill or hard work?
MCENROE: Well, it's all connected. You can't — I don't care how naturally gifted you are, unless you get — gifted you are, especially now. Players are more physical than ever. Even on the women's side, there's a lot more depth.
But why can't we do more with the story of the Williams sisters, for example? I mean, name a story similar in any sport, in the last 100 years. Two sisters are the best players in the world.
HANNITY: And have sustained it for a long time.
MCENROE: And sustained it. And not only that, they continue to sort of go out there. And they come from a part of — the worst part of L.A. So that has to be — we have to take advantage of that.
HANNITY: More on the men's side earlier, I think Roddick can take this tournament. I may be...
MCENROE: I'm thinking one of the Andys. Roddick or Andy Murray.
MCENROE: So that's the guys I'm going with.
HANNITY: All right. Now, I'm not even going to ask you politics. I'll bring you back another day.
MCENROE: Well, yes, we'll talk about that, because I'm concerned about you. But I'm not — I don't — I'm not sure I trust either side a whole lot. I'm one of those.
HANNITY: I'm a conservative.
MCENROE: But I'm more liberal a guy. I've got to be honest with you right now. I'm one of these guys that believes that we should try to take care of as many people as possible.
As a matter of fact, if I could ask you one question, about health care...
MCENROE: ... what do we do about all these people that are uninsured? Do we not insure them? Because I don't get what — I'm not even sure I understand.
HANNITY: I can tell you right now. Really simple. There's not 47 million. That lie is a myth, if you exclude, extrapolate out illegals, if you extrapolate out kids that don't buy it.
MCENROE: Well –-
HANNITY: Well, I'm saying, if you break it down, there's about 15 million chronically uninsured.
Tax credits, tort reform, medical savings accounts, catastrophic care, free market solutions, much better.
MCENROE: All that probably is going to leave a lot of people uninsured. Even if all that was done.
HANNITY: Not with tax credits. I mean, the government's bankrupted Social Security, Medicare and everything else, I have no faith in government. Government has failed...
MCENROE: I noticed that when I watched your show. It didn't seem like you like the government a whole lot.
HANNITY: I've got a last question. Prostate cancer actually runs in my family. And you're doing this thing for prostate cancer. I want to give you a plug.
MCENROE: You should be tested obviously, because the odds go up greatly for both of us: family members or relatives. But here I am, I'd like to think a healthy individual. They're looking for 50-year-olds. So that cut it down originally, because that was the guideline to get a PSA test. And since...
MCENROE: Well, since then the American Neurological Association changed it to 40.
MCENROE: So can you at least be proactive instead of reactive and go to your doctor and see what your options are? I mean, that seems a very — guys are afraid to do that. They're like, "No, no, I'm fine."
And you've got the wives — we've got to get the wives, push the hubbies.
HANNITY: Make them go.
MCENROE: We're like guys — we, like, drive all around and we don't ask anyone for directions. We drive mindlessly, aimlessly for hours.
HANNITY: I've got Onstar, John. It's a new technology.
MCENROE: Oh, gosh, I forgot about that.
HANNITY: That's a great development.
MCENROE: I can't figure it out, though. I'm like a guy, still can't figure that.
HANNITY: John, honestly, I look forward to seeing you at the Open. And I've loved watching you play over the years. And you've added so much to the sport and athletics in general. Thank you for being here.
MCENROE: Don't forget your viewers, ProstateCancerWatch.com.
HANNITY: You bet. ProstateCancerWatch.com. You got it. John McEnroe, thank you.
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