When a rogue Los Angeles city councilman recently (and wrongly) announced that the Oakland Raiders were moving back to L.A., the Raiders denied the report, disappointing the press. "You want me to take the President off the front page? owner Al Davis asked. "I'm sure Monica would want me to." In the end football did not displace Fornigate in America's headlines, except at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, whose editors left Bill Clinton off the front page during the five pre-Super Bowl days of the White House crisis.
Still, sports are central to this scandal. The apocalyptic collision of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was even foretold in an ancient manuscript, encoded in a biblical urtext: The Baseball Encyclopedia.
You can look it up. In 1919 an American League team gave a single start to a southpaw pitcher whose name betokened the rise of Clinton. He was, as God is my witness, one Lefty Whitehouse. In '35 that same club carried a catcher whose own improbable moniker—Chick Starr-serves as a convenient composite of Lewinsky and the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr.
This Whitehouse-Starr (or if you prefer, this Lefty-Chick) quasi-battery belonged to the Washington Senators. Washington senators may yet hold the fate of the President in their own horny hands. So I ask you: Coincidence? Or conspiracy?
The First Lady alleges that the charges against the First Hubby are part of "a vast right-wing conspiracy?' a theory that doesn't stand up. Last week Jaromir Jagr signed a lucrative contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks' Teemu Selanne continued to lead the NHL in goal scoring, and any number of other right wings were prominently preoccupied playing games on TV. Perhaps, Hillary, it's all part of a vast designated hitter conspiracy?
In fairness, the story does bear suspicious links to sport's own scandals. In 1990 Lewinsky's ubiquitous attorney, William Ginsburg, represented Michael Mellman, the L.A. internist who cleared Loyola Marymount basketball star Hank Gathers to play before Gathers collapsed and died on the court. (Mellman was dismissed as a defendant in the ensuing liability suit.) Lewinsky herself was Tripp-wired by a faithless friend in the bar of the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton, the same hotel in which Marv Albert found love at first bite.
Most tragically, the Lewinsky affair has already ended a longstanding sports tradition. Lying low, Clinton didn't dare call the Denver Broncos in their locker room after the Super Bowl. Nor did he call the Packers, though he seemed to speak directly to Green Bay coach Mike (Let 'em Score) Holmgren last week during his State of the Union address. "This is like being ahead in the fourth quarter of a football game," said the President, ostensibly explaining the need for continuing the allied troop presence in Bosnia. "Now is not the time to walk off the field and forfeit the victory."