The Universal Notebook: The politics of sports

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The lines are being drawn. Sides are being chosen. The game is on.

A few weeks ago my fellow Forecaster columnist Steve Woods explained why he can no longer be friends with someone who supports Donald Trump. This week I must explain why Tom Brady should be suspended for four games for the same reason.

To be the greatest quarterback of all time – rich, handsome, and married to a supermodel to boot – is not enough to redeem one for going over to the dark side, where Tom Terrific joins hipster hoopster Dennis Rodman, guber-wrestler Jesse Ventura, bad boy footballer Terrell Owens, Mike Ditka of Da Bears, long-forgotten Heisman winner Hershel Walker and hard-hitting, heavyweight golfer John Daly in support of wealthy celebrity candidate Donald J. Trump.

I defended Brady for trying to cover up Deflategate by destroying his cellphone. I defended him for seeking an unfair advantage. But when the All American Boy announced that he supports the Ugly American Trump I suddenly no longer cared if the Patriots won or lost or if Brady had to serve a four-game suspension for cheating.

“I support all my friends in everything they do,” Brady said of Trump, who he apparently met when Trump invited him to help judge female flesh in one of The Donald’s beauty pageants. “I think it’s pretty remarkable what he’s achieved in his life. You’re going from business, kind of an incredible businessman and then a TV star, and then getting into politics. It’s a pretty different career path. I think that is pretty remarkable.”

I had a similar reversion on former Red Sox hurler Curt Schilling when he came out as a conservative Republican. He can keep the bloody World Series sock, and the bloody ring as well. Schilling showed his true colors when he took $75 million of taxpayer money in Rhode Island before his game business went belly up.

The incredible things about Schilling is that he now blames his political conservatism for the fact that he has not been voted into the Hall of Fame since he became eligible in 2013. When fellow pitcher and broadcaster John Smoltz got in last year and he didn’t, Schilling complained that Smoltz got in because he was a liberal Democrat. (Note: Smoltz is no such thing.)

Athletes should probably stay out of politics until their playing days are over. No one wants to know who or what a jock supports. And it can diminish sports heroes in the eyes of their fans when they turn out to be on the opposing team. Tough to think quite the same of Celtics’ great Bob Cousy, America’s darling Dorothy Hamill and retiring QB Peyton Manning if you know they backed Romney in 2012. And it’s easier to comprehend 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce “Cait” Jenner being transgendered than it is to imagine that she is a conservative Republican.

In their professional sports afterlives, a bunch of ballers have gone into elected politics, among them Bills’ quarterback Rep. Jack Kemp, R-New York; Seahawks’ receiver Rep. Steve Largent, R-Oklahoma; Tigers’ pitcher Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, and Knicks’ small forward Sen. Bill Bradley, D-New Jersey.

Bradley is a Princeton grad and a Rhodes Scholar, a 1964 Olympic gold medalist, an NBA star from 1965-1977, and a U.S. senator from 1979-1997. His nickname was Dollar Bill, not because he was all about money, but because he lived so simply and frugally as a player. He was a thinking man’s player, his senior year in college celebrated in John McPhee’s 1965 “A Sense of Where You Are.”

So where are you now that we need you, Dollar Bill?

To my mind, Bradley would have made a perfect president of the United States. Tall, modest, thoughtful, supremely intelligent and a three-term senator, he is one of the few public figures in my lifetime I would regard as presidential timber. But when Bradley ran in the Democratic primary in 2000 as the liberal alternative to Al Gore (if you can imagine such a thing), he failed to carry a single state and dropped out of the race on March 9, 16 years ago today (as I write).

Bradley apparently continues to write, speak and broadcast, but I hadn’t thought about him much until last year when, in the midst of the Tom Brady Deflategate controversy, Bradley admitted he sometimes deflated basketballs to make them easier to handle and rebound.

I forgive you, Dollar Bill. Not you, Shady Brady.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • SteveWoodsME

    It’s a treat when my esteemed colleague Edgar Allen Beem includes me in one of his columns – thank you EAB! And let me be near the front of the line to congratulate you on another spot on column – as I agree with your ShadyBrady perspective now, and on 9/31/15 in this column:

    • danmaine

      Great another writer who has no clue re the physical sciences… Why does every column have to attack and belittle? Let us calm down and address facts and policies. Everyone knows that Ed Beem is a Socialist, he has stated that fact many times in his Forecaster musings and replies.

      Socialism has never worked, it is counterproductive and leads to mediocracy at best ending with mass pain and suffering.

  • Chew H Bird

    Really? A professional athlete that has an opinion is a problem?

    While I will not pretend to know any of my favorite athlete’s political leanings as a youth, rest assured I admired them for their tenacity, talent, skills, their handling of both winning and losing (and they were far from perfect). What mattered to me the most was when Don Garlits actually sent me a hand written response to my eight year old self as part of a school project. Little did I know that someday he would have a vehicle of his creation in the Smithsonian. I do wish my Mom would have cut me some slack back then as my favorite sport was tops on her list of things she never wanted me to do…

    • EABeem

      Yep. It should pain you to know that Big Daddy was a Republican reactionary and homophobe. When he ran for Congress (unsuccessfully) in 1994, he put plenty of bigotry to display.
      On the subject of patriotism, he said, “We need to teach that America is great. The people that don’t like it, we should have the FBI investigate them. Bring them before grand juries and charge them with subversive, traitorous activities. Have the FBI turn the heat up on them.” On homosexuality, Garlits commented, “The practice of a homosexual and what they do, to me, is just obnoxious. It’s sickening to me.” On race relations in America he said, “Black people have more power than white people in this country now because they have been so run over through the years that now the pendulum has swung.”

      • Chew H Bird

        Yea, I’m not a fan of his political opinions, but his personal interactions speak far louder than empty political musings. After the long passing of his wife, his current project is to go 200 mph in an all electric dragster and he regularly gives personal tours of his museum of drag racing.

  • Charles Martel

    This is rich. An Obama sycophant who now supports the moderate communist, Sanders, is criticizing athletes who support Trump? Hopefully, you and Woods will move to Cape Breton, NS with all the other Hollywood Leftists after Trump wins.

  • danmaine

    Wow, Ed proves yet again why he is out to lunch. EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion, period. It has nothing to do with the BOGUS farce that was and is deflategate.

    Ed, take the time to attempt to understand the physics of the ball when cold and wet. The data collection was poorly documented and controlled to the point that every HS Physics teacher in the State would toss out the entire experiment and explain why no conclusions could be attained.

    You focus on his phone. The phone that the lawyers told him they did not need to attain or review. They asked for and were given all the contact information pertinent to the investigation. The lawyers stated in the original report that Brady was fully cooperative. You sir obviously are biased based on his Political views!

    Must read articles from the Patriots and not involved 3rd parties.

    Ed, take the time to read these. I know that you are not a scientist but you must have some basic understanding of basic physics. Do your tire pressure monitors go off in cold weather like EVERYONE else experiences?

    Take the time to read these then post your apology for not understanding the world around you. The NFL has a huge problem with the Patriots because the stay close to the top for 15+ years and the league is designed for parity.

    • EABeem

      You need to get a sense of humor. I read the Wells report and defended Brady. I know he was railroaded by Goodell and the NFL. All I’m saying is that now that I know Brady is stupid enough to support Trump, I don’t care whether they sanction him or not.