Original Sports Clichés

by Max Schwartz | 11/9/06 6:00am

Writing the day after an important day in American political history, I would feel remiss in not somehow including it in my column. I do recognize, however, that many of you probably don't care about politics in the same way that I do. I saw the blank looks my friends gave me when I told them I was "gonna drink some beers and watch MSNBC" last night. I noticed that nobody else was more excited for fantasy Congress than for fantasy football. So I promise that this column will be as light and fact-free as everybody has come to expect.

As far as I can tell, sports hero seems to be one of the best jobs to prepare one for government service, trailing only lawyer and used-car salesman -- that is, if you judge "best job" by how many people are actually in politics as opposed to how they perform.

Baseball star Jim Bunning is a Republican Senator from Kentucky. Steve Largent was a representative from Oklahoma. Tom Osborne, longtime coach of the Cornhuskers, represented western Nebraska. Bill Bradley actually ran for president. Last but not least, Heath Shuler, former Redskins and Tennessee Volunteers quarterback, was just elected to the House of Representatives from North Carolina last night. I mention him not only because his win over incumbent Charles Taylor was instrumental in flipping control of the House to the Democrats, but because his campaign was ground zero for that small niche of humor, the sports-political humorist.

For those of you who don't know, Shuler was a star at Tennessee and was drafted by the Washington Redskins third overall in 1994. Showing that there is a huge difference between a football game and a political campaign (thank God), Shuler was awful in his time with the 'Skins. He went just 3-14, and threw only 15 touchdowns to 33 interceptions. So that's the setup: quarterback fails in Washington running a football team, then returns to Washington to help run the country. Hilarity can now ensue.

And boy, did it ever. First, the newspapers turned their bad pun machines up to 11 and let roar. Some examples: the Hampton Roads' The Virginian-Pilot led with, "If Shuler tried to pass a bill, would it be intercepted?" and the Hendersonville (N.C.) News titled its article, "Let's all sack that quarterback." Ha ha ... devastating stuff.

Things really got going when a couple of Redskins fans put together a site called StopShuler.com, where they opposed his candidacy merely on football grounds. I recommend that each and every one of you take a look. These guys are my heroes. Their premise: the Redskins are starting to turn things around (doubtful, but I'm willing to concede the point); everything bad that happened to the 'Skins since 1994 is Heath Shuler's fault; and finally, returning him to D.C. could return his curse to the Redskins. Amazingly, their blog got enough national attention that they even got an interview with Shuler.

First, they worried about what to say: "If he does talk to us, what do we say? Do we just boo into the phone?"

Then the day came, and they decided to ask this:

Stop Shuler: Okay, November 26, 1995. RFK Stadium -- a 14-7 loss to the Eagles. Did you hear me boo?

HS: What? Did I hear you boo? I mean, I obviously couldn't pick one person out.

The best part is, people reading this site actually thought these guys didn't like Shuler as a politician. Cruising through the comments on the site, one notices stuff like "i cant believe u oppose Shler becase he was a bad qb!!!!!! Heath shuler is TEH BOMB!!!! U R stoopid!!!" and "Heath Shuler doesn't have mountain values im so glad you pointed this out. u guys are my heroes. goooooo Charles taylor."

Really, how oblivious can people be? The writers had to place a disclaimer on their site saying that it was all a joke.

So now Shuler is headed back to D.C. in a somewhat more important role. Will his suckitude sink the Democrats like it did the 'Skins? As a lifelong Dem, I certainly hope not. But I'm already looking forward to 2008, when I can't wait to vote the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning ticket for "Godlike Lords of Everything That Is Good and Right in the Universe." All hail our cannon-armed, model-dating overlords!

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