Politicians strike out on sports
By Erika Lovley
January 18, 2010
Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley is taking heat for dismissing longtime Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling as just another "Yankees fan," but she’s hardly the first politician to swing for the fences and miss.
Politicians from New England have had a particularly bad run of it.
The late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) once referred to homerun champions Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire as “Sammy Sooser” and “Mike McGwire.”
As he ran for president in 2007, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was mocked by bloggers after failing to recognize Red Sox anthem “Dirty Water” at one of his campaign events in Iowa. The Standells song is played at every home game and also appears in the Red Sox-themed film “Fever Pitch.”
“Oh that’s what that song is. Gotcha. I was wondering, ‘What is that song?’” Romney said.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has a list of Red Sox flubs. While campaigning in Massachusetts during the 2004 presidential election, Kerry referred to Red Sox star Manny Ramirez as “Manny Ortez.” He quickly corrected himself but still butchered Sox hitter David Ortiz’s name as “Ortez” in the process.
Several days later, Kerry was booed at Fenway Park when he threw the opening pitch into the dirt.
Kerry also once reportedly named baseball legend Eddie Yost as his favorite Red Sox player — despite the fact that Yost had never played for the Red Sox.
Of course, Kerry’s most famous sports gaffe was made away from home. Just two months before the 2008 election, he referred to the Green Bay Packers’ home stadium, Lambeau Field, as “Lambert Field.”
"I got some advice for him," then-President George W. Bush said a few days later. "If someone offers you a cheesehead, don't say you want some wine, just put it on your head and take a seat at Lambeau Field."
Then-Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) fumbled repeatedly during a hearing on steroids use in 2008 — referring to the Black Sox as the “Blackhawks,” calling Major League Baseball all-star Rafael Palmeiro “Rafael Palmeri” and crediting him with having hit his 300th hit when he’d actually hit a record 3,000.
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd’s early presidential campaign decided to raise money by holding a drawing for tickets to Game Six of the American League Championship Series in October 2007. Entrants had to make a minimum contribution of $20.04. The only problem: The campaign never checked to see if it was against MLB rules. It was, which forced the campaign to offer up refunds.
A few sports errors have happened outside the New England delegation.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said during an interview that while being interrogated as a prisoner of war, he gave his Vietnamese captors the names of the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line rather than those of his squadron-mates. But McCain got in hot water with Pittsburgh fans after it became clear that the names of the players McCain gave hadn’t all joined the Steelers until years after McCain’s 1967 capture. To top it off, McCain had written previously in his book, “Faith of My Fathers,” that he’d given his captors the names of the Green Bay Packers defensive line.
The flubs can rev up the opposition and make for great cable fodder. “It’s not about the Boston Red Sox, but it is about being part of a community and understanding them when you go to Washington,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said of Coakley’s Schilling stumble Monday.
But rarely, if ever, has a politician lost a race just for bobbling the ball, says Dan Kennedy, an assistant journalism professor and sports and politics enthusiast at Northeastern University.
“People who are on the other side love to say they're bothered, but I don’t think anyone cares," he said. "I don’t think you can point to an instance where a sports gaffe cost anyone an election. And certainly if Coakley loses, Curt Schilling will be reason No. 458.”
See TL's viewpoint and a one-pager on a very effective strategy for the savvy political candidate who can honestly claim sports as a passion, whether it be a soccer "mom" or "dad," or a candidate who knows the sports world inside-out.