Okay, so, I saw Mitt Romney's Ford Field thing from last Friday, and I kinda ignored it, because there wasn't really much to say from a "progressive sports fan" perspective besides "LOLZ, STAGECRAFT FAIL." I figured that Mitt Romney and this humble blog could just go our separate ways.
Then Romney had to go to Daytona.
At Daytona, Romney was asked if he follows NASCAR, and he said:
""Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners."
Jesus Christ, that's a tone deaf answer.
Look, I think that "Can this candidate speak coherently on sports?" is a TERRIBLE criterium to use in picking a President. And I say that as a big fan of Obama, who's probably the most cognizant of sports of any President in recent history. "Does he follow the same pop culture touchstones I do?" is pretty much equally bad, even if you just consider that a roundabout way of asking, "Does he get ME?"
But faking an affinity for the sport just makes the whole thing so much worse. And it makes it worse for the candidate, too, because we can always tell when he's faking it...and he usually ends up saying something clueless and out-of-touch like Romney did there.
Yes, plenty of politicians have made political hay out of their love of sports. Obama doing his bracket on ESPN, Bush throwing out the first pitch- and forever sullying- at my beloved Busch Stadium. But those guys had real passions for the sports. Bill Clinton never said anything memorable about sports (you'd only even know he was a Cardinal fan if you read his book, and OH GOD IT'S NOT WORTH IT). John Kerry tried to talk to some Packers fans when Wisconsin was a swing state, and he ended up saying "Lambert Field."
So, the bottom line, candidates: don't fake the sports love. We see right through it every time, and that's worse for you than just admitting you don't know much about the sport. Because, actually, "Is this guy just a big phony?" is a fine criterium to use.