You might not have noticed that Tuesday, Nov. 3 was Election Day. Hey, it's an off year, you're excused. I noticed because my sister-in-law was voted onto the planning commission of a small town in Connecticut.
From a sports perspective the election returns were portentous. Voters in New Jersey and San Francisco rejected multimillion-dollar stadium proposals, which means that the Meadowlands won't land a baseball franchise any time soon and the Humm Baby Giants will fly off to Denver. This is good. Wave the Giants into Stapleton International Airport with Orange Crush Homer Hankies. It's all a part of my grand political vision: How sports will elect Bill Bradley president in 1988.
Here's the scenario. The first step has already occurred: The stadium referenda were shot down. As a result the Bay Area loses its National League team to Denver. This emboldens the football Cardinals to flee St. Louis for Jacksonville, damaging the candidacies of two top Democrats: Missouri Representative Richard Gephardt, who is blamed for letting the team slip away, and former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, who is faulted for failing to bring it to football-starved Phoenix.
Bradley's home state of New Jersey, meanwhile, doesn't have to pave over more swampland for parking, doesn't get accused of stealing the Yankees and doesn't end up with Billy Martin as a manager. Thus, Jersey has more money to spend on real problems, such as toxic waste, organized boxing and Passaic.
What follows is almost predictable. On Jan. 31 in San Diego, the Houston Oilers win the Super Bowl. This sets in motion the so-called Koppett Effect, first identified in 1978 by writer Leonard Koppett, who found that whenever a team from the old AFL won a Super Bowl, the stock market dropped during that year. (The converse is that a non-AFL club is an up-market predictor.) This is bad news for the party in office, in this case the Republicans.
In February, the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary give an edge to Illinois Senator Paul Simon and Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis among the Democrats and George Bush among the Republicans. The larger electorate yawns, though many, seeing pop singer Simon doing well, whistle Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard as they switch back to basketball on ESPN.
March 8 is Super Tuesday, with contests in 20 states, including 13 in the South, but Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, his region's favorite son, is revealed to have been one of the 2,436 sources for Sport magazine's investigation of corruption in the Tennessee football program. This stirs outrage in the South, and Gore withdraws from the presidential battle.
In April the Knicks make the NBA playoffs for the first time in four years. Footage of the team in its title-winning days—including Senator You-know-who hitting the J—is dusted off, and a draft-Bradley movement begins, further inspired by a 48-page USA Today special section on the 1973 NBA champion Knicks.
Bradley, who for years has tried to play down his basketball background in a quest to be taken seriously in politics, is overwhelmed by cries for his nomination. His supporters thrill at a rumor that their man plays Nerf basketball in his office. For a week The Miami Herald stakes out Bradley's senatorial digs, listening for the gentle swish of foam rubber.
In May the Knicks are eliminated by the Celtics in a controversial series. Danny Ainge punches out three New York starters in the seventh game. Dukakis takes the rap for running a violent and lawless state. Bradley rises sharply in the polls.