One of my dream jobs is to become a political sports consultant. It works pretty simply. Let’s say that Carly Fiorina decides during her Iowa caucus campaigning to send what she might later call a “tongue-in-cheek” tweet about how she loves her alma mater Stanford, but she’s “rooting for a Hawkeyes win today” in the Rose Bowl.
I would tell her: Don’t do it. That’s all. If it is a joke, nobody will get the joke. And if it’s a pander, hey, that’s fine, but it’s a terrible pander. No real sports fan in Iowa would expect you to root against your alma mater in a bowl game.
Or let’s say Ted Kennedy was planning to introduce the home run kings of 1998, and he planned to call them “Mike McGwire and Sammy Sooser.”
I would tell him: Don’t do that.
I would tell President Barack Obama that even though he’s a Chicago Bulls fan and that’s all well and good, he should not be out there recruiting LeBron James. I would tell Martha Coakley when running for Senate in Massachusetts, you probably don’t want to call Curt Schilling “another Yankee fan.” I would tell President Richard Nixon that he might not want to name Texas as college football national champion. I would tell Hillary Clinton that, as a lifelong Cubs fan, putting on a Yankees hat and saying that you have always been a Yankees fan will not impress real Yankees fans or even fake ones. And on. And on. And on.
Best I can tell, the consulting fees would never stop coming in.
I bring this up now, obviously, because I sure as heck wish that presidential candidate Ted Cruz had come to me first. He was in the gym where they filmed much of the movie “Hoosiers,” and he was referring to the scene where coach Norman Dale has his players use a tape measure to show that the rim is the same height in Indianapolis as it was in little ol’ Hickory.
“The amazing thing is,” Cruz said, “that basketball ring in Indiana, it’s the same height as it is in New York City and every other place in this country.”
Basketball ring. He called it a basketball ring.
“Fortunately,” the writer Anthony Castrovince tweets, “It was in Indiana. Not a big basketball state.”
Great “Spinal Tap” reference. Anyway, I feel like one of those “superheroes” who helplessly watches a senseless calamity. I could have stopped him.
It’s hard to know exactly where “basketball ring” falls in the list of awkward sports talk by politicians. At first glance, it seems like THE most awkward because, honestly, nobody on planet earth has ever referred to a “basketball ring” except when pointing out that Carmelo Anthony hasn’t won one. Put it this way: My 14-year-old daughter laughed, and she actively loathes sports.
Unlike Bruce Springsteen’s “speedball” reference in “Glory Days” (which people still argue about*), “basketball ring” is universally understood to sound ludicrous. “Basketball ring” sounds like what the Steve Martin alien character Captain Smek from the movie “Home” might call it.
*There are those who would defend the Boss’ use of “speedball” because the term does have some historical significance and it sounds kind of folksy, the way the Springsteen narrator was meant to sound. As one of the world’s biggest Bruce Springsteen fans I have to say: Nah. Come on, he blew it. The word is “fastball.” We can admit it, right? Also, Steve Miller, there’s no way that “Texas” and “facts is” rhyme and it sure as heck doesn’t rhyme with “taxes.”
So you might say that “basketball ring” for sheer awkwardness and clumsiness is in a class all its own.
Then you remember that President Obama, a White Sox fan ever since he moved to Chicago, couldn’t name one White Sox player, and seemed to call the old stadium Kaminsky Park.
Then you remember that John Kerry called the Green Bay Packers’ legendary stadium “Lambert Field.” He did that in Milwaukee, so, yeah, that wasn’t good.
Then you remember that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, when asked his favorite Chicago player, said “Ron Santos.”
Then you remember that Texas governor Greg Abbott’s social team sent out a congratulations to the Houston Astros before their playoff game with the Kansas City Royals game was over. Of course, the Royals came back and won because, you know, comebacks are possible.
All of it makes me wonder just how stupid I sound whenever I’m talking about something other than sports. I mean, sure, I sound plenty stupid talking sports, but at least I know that those basketplayers hurtle the orange-orb through a basketball hoop. Come on, everyone knows that.