Thursday, July 27, 2006

From the Sport Arena to the Political Arena [J. Mark English]

As Ed mentioned below, Sir Charles Barkley would rather be called Governor Charles Barkely. At first glance, ones eyes might pop out in astonishment.
However, ponder this for a moment. What do you Jack Kemp, Jim Bunning, Steve Largent, J.C. Watts, Tom Osborne, Jim Ryun, Bob Mathias, Bill Bradley, Jesse Ventura, Heath Shuler, and Lynn Swan all have in common? They made their name in sports before taking on the political landscape.
Scott Shepard of COX News Service, writes a great piece on the transformation many of these men took to get from the field to seats of power:
Although politics is often called a contact sport, it isn't always easy for athletes to make the leap from one arena to the next. This political season, though, two more are trying to make the team: former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann and former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler...
...John Lapp, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said it recently when discussing candidates the party had recruited to run against Republicans in this year's congressional races.
"We have over 40 candidates in top seats ... we have great candidates, like Heath Shuler, who is a better candidate than he was quarterback for the Redskins...," Lapp said...
...Still, the route from sports to politics is a difficult one, even if athletes have achieved the kind of success Swann did, as a wide receiver for the Steelers championship teams of the 1970s. In Pittsburgh, he is a football god, but in Philadelphia, home of intrastate rival Eagles, he is something else again.
John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, explains it this way: "Athlete candidates may draw support but they face three sources of opposition. First are the fans who rooted for opposing teams. Second are the fans who rooted for the athlete's team but are angry about the game they lost. Third are the nerds who have never rooted for any teams, and still resent athletes for getting all the girls in high school."...