This week, your heroic replacement refs of the National Football League achieved a brief moment of “bipartisanship” on the campaign trail, when just about everyone in the race came out against the replacement officials who ruined Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game. Vice presidential contender Paul Ryan did something for the first time in his life -- call for an industry to be competently regulated. The real refs' return prompted President Barack Obama to enthuse that it was a “great day for America.” (BUT WHAT ABOUT JOBS?) Somewhere, we are guessing that even Romney was relieved. “HA HA HA. Sport. That’s fine,” we imagine he said, adding, “Ha ha ... ha.”
The point is, when politicians need an easy-money way to show some basic affinity with their fellow Americans, they can do a lot worse than reach for the sports pander. Some are more successful than others.
JOHN KERRY: John Kerry may be the senior senator from Massachusetts, but his attempts to cater to hometown sports fans have been historically lacking. As Politico’s Erika Lovely remembers, Kerry has struggled with the names of various Red Sox during his career -- once famously referring to Manny Ramirez as Manny “Ortez.” But the strangest moment by far was when Kerry “named baseball legend Eddie Yost as his favorite Red Sox player.” Yost’s third base coaching must have left a major impression with Kerry, because that’s the only role he ever played in Boston -- he was a player for the Senators, Angels and Tigers.
NEWT GINGRICH: It’s a Saturday night in January, and for some reason ABC News is making the 2012 GOP hopefuls debate, because ABC News is awful. Out of sympathy, the moderator asks the candidates, “If you weren't here running for president, what would you be doing on this Saturday night?" Newt Gingrich answers: "I'd be watching the college championship basketball." Maybe on the moon, sir. Here in America, you have to wait until March to watch the “college championship basketball.”
MITT ROMNEY: Yes, yes, from time to time we wonder if Romney can relate to the average sports fan, like when we hear that he has a fancy dancing horse and commonly refers to sports as “sport,” as if he were Gore Vidal or something. But let’s not forget he did make an Olympics happen! And he even cut a commercial in which Olympic athletes celebrated his work. (They leave out the part where he saves the Olympics “thanks to the largess of the 1 percent and the congressional appropriations process.”)
BARACK OBAMA: Nobody worries if President Obama is some sort of robot-aristocrat when he talks about sports. And like most human beings in America, the president fills out a NCAA bracket when the “college championship basketball” -- as Newt would call it -- starts up. That said, Obama seems to embed a certain amount of political calculation in his tournament picks. Especially last year’s swing-state heavy Final Four picks: Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri and North Carolina. He picked UNC to win it all, prompting many observers to say, "Yeah, yeah, we saw what you did there."
PAUL RYAN: When you need one guy on the ticket to do the sports-related pandering of two people, you are not going to do any better than P90X broheim Paul Ryan. This past week, he led the league in decrying the way the victory was stolen from his home-state Packers. Saturday, he headed to the Varsity Club near Ohio State’s Columbus campus to hang with Buckeyes fans as their team contended with the Michigan State Spartans. Finally, he finished off the weekend by pandering his behind off at the National U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance's 16th Annual Save Our Heritage Banquet. That’s Ironman-class bro-ing out from the bottom of the ticket.