I never thought there was a connection between politics and sports. Sure many politicians have played sports, watched sports and talked about sports when they weren't on the campaign trail, but I never thought there was a tangible connection between the two. Until this year.
Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain made no secret about their unabashed love of sports early on in this race and made themselves accessible to sports mediums like no other candidates before them. They made calls into sports radio talk shows, spoke during halftime of Monday Night Football, attended sporting events, Obama played pick-up basketball with anyone who dared challenge him and both candidates even answered some sports questions from me this week, which I guess shows how desperate both were to get any last votes on Election Day.
While I initially believed that this sports connection was nothing more than a trivial side note, I soon realized that it was so much more. I never felt more of a connection to the candidates than while listening to them talk about sports. It was one of the few times I viewed them as regular people rather than filibustering presidential candidates and felt I was actually on par (or at least in the same ballpark) with them in terms of the subject matter. I may not know how to fix the economy or end the war in Iraq, but I have a few theories on how to set up a college football playoff.
When I spoke with an Obama spokesperson this morning after SI.com's interview with both candidates was posted, I asked how Obama was doing and she told me he had just left to play a pick-up basketball game at a gym on the west side of Chicago, a tradition he began during the Democratic primary campaign. While McCain didn't play basketball, he was tracking the Monday Night Football game the previous night while he campaigned and couldn't have been happy with the final result. Not because he's a Redskins fan (he supports the Cardinals) but because of the infamous Redskins Rule. Starting in 1936, if the Redskins won their last home game before the election, the incumbent party stayed in party. That rule was broken in 2004, when both the Redskins and John Kerry lost. On Monday the Redskins lost 23-6 to the Steelers, meaning McCain would likely lose as well.
Although the presidency will not be in McCain's future if the Redskins Rule and more importantly early projections hold up, he, like Obama, has at least made a connection with the American people through sports -- once again proving that sports are truly one of the few things in this world that can bridge the gap between race, gender, religion, age and political affiliation.
Now that the race is over, what did you think of both candidates reaching out to sports fans in this election? Did it matter that they were on ESPN as well as CNN and that they sat down with Time as well as Sports Illustrated? Did that make any difference to you on Election Day?