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Sports posers

Sports | Kerry's sports comments and photo-ops are a calculated effort to try to connect with the average American

Issue: "2004 Election: Clinch time," Oct. 30, 2004

On a roadside in Green Bay, Wis., a nascent 527 group has bought perhaps America's unlikeliest political billboard. "Welcome to 'Lambert Field,'" it reads-an obvious dig at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who misspoke while referencing the famous Wisconsin football stadium.

During the final weeks of the campaign for president, both Mr. Kerry and George W. Bush are talking, and playing, sports on the campaign trail. It's all part of the (political) game-connecting with voters, showing them you care about normal stuff.

But the Football Fans for Truth have a message for Mr. Kerry: Stop the bogus sports talk. "We're making the point, tongue firmly planted in cheek mind you, that Kerry is nothing but a sports poser," said Pete Peterson, the group's spokesman. "Kerry's sports comments and photo-ops are a calculated effort to try to connect with the average American."

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Mr. Peterson pointed to Mr. Kerry's habit of playing football on airport tarmacs. It has gotten sporting photographs of Mr. Kerry in the newspapers, but has also led to the diffusion of some rather embarrassing snapshots across the internet.

Sen. Kerry could easily win the sports debate if he only turned to President Bush's record as part-owner of the Texas Rangers. In 1989, Mr. Bush signed off on one of the most lop-sided trades in baseball history. He exchanged future Hall of Famer Sammy Sosa, future 20-game winner Wilson Alvarez, and fan-favorite Scott Fletcher for rust-gloved Harold Baines and utility man Fred Manrique.

Mr. Bush has said it was "the biggest mistake of my adulthood." Admitted Mr. Peterson: "That mistake did not pass without our notice."

Pride of the Sox

After years of suffering humiliating defeats at the hands of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox now have something to feel good about: The Yankees, not they, collapsed. Red Sox owner John Henry called the Boston triumph "the greatest comeback in baseball history." It would be hard to argue with Mr. Henry. Before the Sox 10-3 victory in Game 7, no team in baseball's long history had ever come back from an 0-3 deficit. Ironically, it was the Yankees who seemed desperate, ordering legendary Red Sox killer Bucky Dent to throw out Game 7's first pitch and strategically placing Reggie Jackson behind the batting cages. A shocked Yankees general manager Brian Cashman admitted, "That team never dies." But real Red Sox fans know the Yankees could still exact revenge on poor Boston. If the Red Sox, jubilant from crushing New York, lose concentration against their battle-tested National League foe, Boston could repeat 1986, not 1918.

Around the Horn

  • Don't tell Jerry Rice he's washed up. Never mind that Oakland recently traded Mr. Rice, arguably the best football player ever, to Seattle for a lowly 7th-round draft pick. "You know what," Mr. Rice, 42, said. "I really don't feel different. I think the main thing is how you utilize me. The opportunities that you give me. I think I'm capable of doing what I did 20 years ago. I just have to have the opportunities."
  • For those who remember Grant Hill with the Detroit Pistons, his 20-point, six-rebound effort in a preseason game may seem ordinary. But once acquainted with Mr. Hill's spotty service in Orlando-where he's only played in 47 games in three seasons-fans can see why the Magic's front office was ecstatic with Mr. Hill's preseason flourishes.
  • How did Freddy Adu do in his rookie major-league soccer season? Not bad for a teenager. Mr. Adu made the jump from junior high to the MLS this year, and at 14 years old became America's youngest pro team-sport athlete. He said he struggled with confidence during his first season with D.C. United: "I was just no good, and I just look back and I laugh at myself. What was I doing? Why was I scared?"

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