Specter soaks up Philly sports
Specter attended four sporting events in a 24-hour period
He has had a battle with cancer for the past several years
His Philly sports view, understandably, is pessimistic
PHILADELPHIA -- It was a beautiful day to play two, here on Sunday, and somewhere around 4:30 on a sun-drenched afternoon a scads of people sauntered across acres of parking lots, leaving the Linc and the Eagles football game and heading north on foot, to the Bank and the Phillies game. Thousands of people had snagged tickets for both, and any fan crossing the lots in mid-afternoon might have found a football suddenly placed squarely in the stomach by a tailgater pretending to be Donovan McNabb or touched on the shin by a homeless man sprawled on the sidewalk or high-fived by cross-dressing strangers, wearing green for the Eagles and red for the Phillies.
But one fan leaving the football game, a svelte, sprightly elderly man in a maroon sweater and a green cap, was heading to his car and not to the ballpark, even though he had a ticket for Game 4 of the World Series in his pocket. Arlen Specter, 78, of Philadelphia had another event to attend, between the football game and the baseball game. Specter, a Republican who represents Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, was in the middle of the most action-packed sporting day of his life. "Never before have I had a day in which I've attended four major sport events," he said. You could hear his Midwestern boyhood with every word, but he's been bleeding green and red for decades.
ARLEN SPECTER'S FOUR MAJOR SPORTING EVENTS, Sunday, October 26, 2008:
1) Game 3 of the World Series, midnight to 1:41 a.m.
2) Eagles versus Atlanta Falcons, 1 to 4:15 p.m.
3) Squash match versus Evan Kelly at the Sporting Club, downtown Philadelphia, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
4) Game 4 of the World Series, first pitch 8:29 p.m.
"The Sporting Club," somebody said to Specter during the fourth quarter of the Eagles 26-14 win on Sunday. "Isn't that where Gov. Rendell works out?"
Ed Rendell is the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and a rabid sports fan. He was sitting in the same section at Lincoln Financial Field as Specter. As a fan -- not necessarily as a politician -- Rendell is more vocal than Specter. Nobody would call the governor svelte.
"I'm not sure he works out," the senator said. Specter was Rendell's boss years ago, when Specter was the Philadelphia district attorney and Rendell was head of the homicide unit. "But I've seen him there wearing a towel."
Specter, who has had an ongoing battle against cancer for the past several years, is not a robust and demonstrative fan these days. (He clapped politely when the Eagles scored on Sunday.) But he is a keenly analytical sports fan. Over the years he has attended hundreds of Eagles games and Phillies games, often with his son, Shanin, a Philadelphia lawyer, or Marvin Katz, a Federal district court judge. His recall for plays past is astounding.
He's been in Philadelphia for years, and his view, generally and understandably, is pessimistic. When Ryan Howard drew a second strike in his sixth-inning at-bat in Game 3, Specter said to his son, "If he strikes out here, he goes down in infamy." Howard homered on the next pitch. He was reminded immediately of his work on the Warren Commission. He interviewed the wife of Texas governor John Connally, Nellie, who said to her fellow passenger in a Dallas motorcade, "Mr. President, you can't say the people of Dallas don't love you." Moments later President Kennedy was shot. It was Specter who created the Single Bullet Theory.
A couple weeks ago, Ed Snider, chairman of the Philadelphia Eagles, asked Specter to urge John McCain to push Sarah Palin, the hockey mom and vice-presidential candidate, to drop the first ceremonial puck at a Flyers game. Specter wrote McCain a letter and Palin showed up for her gig, baby in tow, showered in boos. Pols are nearly always booed in at sporting events here. "There was some support for her," Specter said. By some he must have meant about three people.
Palin was a schoolgirl basketball player and Barack Obama was a schoolboy basketball player. Somebody in Specter's section at the Linc wanted to know his opinion: who would win at H-O-R-S-E?
Specter took the question seriously. "I think Sen. Obama would win," Specter said, "unless he decided it wasn't sporting to beat a lady."
"He didn't feel that way against Hillary Clinton," somebody replied. The senator smiled wanly. He once played Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York, in a squash match in Pittsburgh. He didn't let her win.
He was asked, "Is the country ready for a hockey-mom vice president?"
Specter's face was bathed in the warm autumn sun. Behind him fans were ripping out their lungs for the home team. Rock anthems assaulted his ears. Specter said, "I think the question really is the country ready for a McCain presidency." He's not on the fence. He's voting Republican.
The only thing in front of him was a bottle of water and a game -- in his mind -- in jeopardy. He takes the view that his team is always in jeopardy. He stays through the end and will often call Angelo Cataldi or someone on one of the AM sports-talk shows for post-mortems. No hot dogs, no beer, these days. He's fighting cancer. He plays squash daily, as part of his health regime.
And also because he's an adrenalin junky. He's just like a lot of us, going from one sporting contest to another, and, in his case, one campaign to another. "It's about the same thing," he said, the campaigns and the sporting events. Election night in a close one is about like Game 3 was in the ninth, with the game tied at 4. "There's not really anything you can do but watch and wait," he said. There's nothing you can do influence the outcome, except root, if you believe in rooting.
"Do you like the tension?" Specter was asked.
He nodded yes and said, "I enjoy the competition."