Sarah Palin's Extreme Sports

Ever since Andrew Johnson welcomed the New York Mutuals to the
White House in 1867, presidential politics has exploited professional
sports. It's a foolproof way for politicians to show voters they enjoy
competition, fair play and are salt-of-the-turf Americans.

Sports signifies different things to different voters. Football (JFK)
and baseball (George H.W.
) are good. Windsurfing (John Kerry) and hunting "varmints" (Mitt Romney)--not always so good. And no candidate should ever bowl in a necktie,
unless he can seriously roll.

Barack Obama's game is basketball.
He shot three-point
with the troops in Iraq and his high school b-ball videos have become
a YouTube sensation.

During the campaign Obama has appeared on sports radio, including a cameo
last week on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning. He earned
cheers from co-host Mike Golic by saying, tongue-in-cheek,
"I would have my attorney general investigate the possibility of
instituting a college football playoff system through executive order.
I'm tired of this nonsense at the end of every college football season."

A month earlier, John McCain made his own ESPN appearance. He's also known to work the crowds at NASCAR events. But no one in this election uses
sports like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. At times on the campaign trail,
sports is her primary form of communication with voters outside of her
narrow, Christian fundamentalist base. Communication is critical for
Palin, since she mangles the English language so consistently that she's
become the subject of
. Talking sports--whether as a mom on the sidelines of her
kids' hockey games or a as an outdoorswoman who loves to hunt and
fish--gives her the opportunity to seem genuine, friendly and

Palin's politics may be beyond the fringe, but her sporting interests
are effortlessly mainstream. In this sense, she resembles the current
occupant of the White House. George W. Bush built his public persona as
the owner of the Texas Rangers. When asked for an example of a political
mistake, he would speak with a smirk about trading Sammy Sosa. The press and the public let him get away with
this blather and the country has been worse off because of it. Palin has
the most extensive sports resume for a politician since former
Representative Steve Largent
. But unlike Largent, an NFL Hall of Fame wide
receiver, Palin's sporting bona fides are more style than substance.

Palin was introduced to the country as "Sarah Barracuda," the former
high school point guard who led her team to a state championship, a fact McCain
actually uses as an argument to tout her experience.

She is, as Fred Thompson said at the RNC, "The only candidate
who can field dress a moose." She worked as a sports reporter for KTUU,
Anchorage's NBC affiliate, and once dreamed of being a reporter
for ESPN (although according to the campaign, her daughter's name,
Bristol, is not in fact a tribute to ESPN's Bristol, Connecticut,
headquarters.) She told Katie Couric that her favorite movies were the
sports flicks Rudy and Hoosiers, although she claims she
only loved the endings. She likes to shoot caribou from a plane, a fact
that made Chris Rock wonder why she walks free, while Michael Vick is in jail.

Sarah Palin has made every effort to embody all that is rugged and
real. It turns out she is a breathtaking fraud.

Palin speaks about being Joe Six-Pack when in reality she's Jane
Champagne, with a net worth over $1 million.
As the Washington
reported, "A check of financial
records...shows the Palins live anything but a common life when compared
with their fellow residents of their hometown of Wasilla. Their combined
income of nearly a quarter-million dollars last year was five times the
median household income for Wasilla's 7,000 residents. They own a
single-engine plane, two boats, two personal watercraft and a
half-million-dollar, custom-built home on a lake that is worth three
times the average of other homes in town."

Palin spoke at last Thursday's debate with a collection of folksy "you
betchas," but, as conservative Obama supporter
Andrew Sullivan pointed out, "Just compare this recording of
Palin in Alaska in 2006 to what you heard last night. Ask yourself where
the folksiness is. See how many times she says 'doggone' in 2006. Or
'betcha.' Or 'Joe Six-Pack.' "

Palin uses sports the same way she uses her looks and language, which
have turned the blog corner at National Reviewinto something like the Penthouse Forum.
The simple truth that Palin is Bush with lip-gloss, the only difference
being that she was a better athlete than the former Yale
. She is still the same person who was the head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter
at her high school. FCA is a group whose stated mission is
to "use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus
Christ." Substitute "politics" for "athletics," and we have Palin. But it
isn't just about spreading the word of God.

It's about the right-wing edge of the fundamentalist movement that uses
sports to mask a political agenda of creationism, bigotry,
environmental catastrophe and deregulation. And if that leads to the
"end-times," then so it was written. If sports teaches us anything,
it's that you can disguise a lousy competitor for one round, one
quarter or one inning, but the truth has a way of making itself known.
There is a reason Sarah Palin hasn't done a press conference. In
every conceivable way, she belongs in the minors: strictly Bush league.

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