See Jock Run
The political air has been filled with football clichés over the past few months as the Republican team of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp has wasted no opportunity to conjure up Kemp's gridiron past. The G.O.P. vice-presidential candidate recently said that the race "is still in the third quarter" and accused Bill Clinton of "trying to sit on a lead." It shouldn't be too long before we hear about Dole-Kemp firing up the two-minute drill to attack the Democrats' prevent defense.
Kemp is not the only former athlete whose name will be on the political scoreboard next Tuesday. Heck, he isn't even the only conservative Republican former quarterback running for office: J.C. Watts, who led Oklahoma to Orange Bowl wins in 1980 and '81, is trying to retain his House seat in Oklahoma's Fourth District; and Bill Kenney, a former Kansas City Chiefs signal-caller, is running for lieutenant governor of Missouri.
Kenney, like Kemp, trumpets his hut-one, hut-two past. His campaign slogan is, Leadership from the stadium to the statehouse, and the campaign cards he hands off include his stats with the Chiefs from 1979 through '88. As of Monday, political experts in Missouri were tabbing the Kenney race as too close to call. Watts, meanwhile, has such name recognition that he doesn't have to trade much on his gridiron past. Although allegations have been made that he defaulted on a $4 million business loan in 1994, Watts, who is black, is expected to beat his white Democratic challenger, Ed Crocker, even though the Fourth is 90% white and predominantly Democratic.
Two other athletes who are conservative Republicans, Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent and world-record-setting miler Jim Ryun, also should taste victory on Nov. 5. Largent is virtually unopposed in his bid to retain his U.S. House seat from Oklahoma's Second District. And though even some conservatives are frightened by what they consider Ryun's far-right beliefs—the Iola (Kans.) Register broke a 125-year tradition of backing Republicans and endorsed Ryun's opponent because it fears Ryun's "deeply religious philosophy that sets him apart from most Kansans"—he's expected to win.
The most compelling battle involving a jock is in North Carolina, where NASCAR legend Richard Petty, a Republican, is slightly behind Democrat Elaine Marshall in their race for secretary of state. Petty scores high in name recognition—95% of the state's voters know the King—but has an approval rating of just 38%. Perhaps that's because Petty spends most of his stumping time signing autographs and his oratory does not, as the Wilmington, N.C., Morning Star wrote, "always hit on all pistons." For example, in arguing recently that celebrity can be a drawback for a politician, he said, "My name recognition sometimes is a minus, you know what I mean, because people just look at you as a one-dimensional situation." And nobody, least of all a jock turned politician, wants to be a one-dimensional situation.
Penalties Are Fun!
Sega, the video-game company, has approached the English Football League Referees' Association about the possibility of acting as title sponsor of the red and yellow cards issued to offending players. Says a company spokesman, "We hope that each time a referee has to show a player a card, the Sega branding will remind [the referee] that, after all, it's only a game, thereby reducing the psychological tension that referees face." Considering the number of on-the-field skirmishes and in-the-stands riots that happen during soccer games, isn't it the players and the fans who need the reminding?
Eyeing the Tiger
In just nine weeks on the PGA Tour, 20-year-old Tiger Woods has demonstrated that he could become not only the world's best golfer but also—with $60 million worth of endorsement deals—golf's biggest off-the-course star. A more intriguing question: Can he become the next Michael Jordan, the next athlete to transcend his sport?
Everyone agrees that, like Jordan, Woods is talented, bright and, as Bob Scarpelli, vice chairman of DDB Needham advertising agency in Chicago puts it, "multicultural" (i.e., he appeals to people from all demographic groups). Undeniably, Woods's youth and dashing style of play have already created untold thousands of new golf fans. But there might be a limit to golf's—and, thus, Woods's—crossover appeal. "Basketball and football are beer-guy sports," says Gary Conway, senior vice president at Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago. "Golf still seems to be pretty elitist." What Woods must do is draw the masses to the traditionally country-club sport, a process that Arnold Palmer began three decades ago when he made golf at least a blip on America's radar screen and created a lifetime-endorsement career for himself. Pro basketball's explosion in popularity during the Jordan era has been an important factor in an endorsement career that shows no sign of waning. Woods and golf will have to grow together too.