Political observations in this space over the years have focused on the process or personality and not issues.
Bob Dole’s presidential run in 1996 inspired a search into sporting politicos, Dole was a member of the Kansas freshman basketball team before heading off to World War II.
Tom Osborne’s gubernatorial quest in 2006 in Nebraska was fascinating because something happened to one of the most popular football coaches and a three-term Congressman in the political arena that rarely did on the field. He lost.
The contribution to this year’s election cycle was to suggest that Kansas Democrats should have chosen any guy named Larry from Liberal as a candidate for lieutenant governor.
That way, Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor who has been called by his opponents a “liberal from Lawrence,” could run with a Lawrence from Liberal.
Then Bill Snyder threw his hat in the ring.
Well, not his ring. Snyder, Kansas State’s revered football coach, endorsed Sen. Pat Roberts’ bid for re-election in a 30-second television ad that debuted a week before Tuesday’s election.
In the ad, Snyder describes Roberts as “a dear friend and great friend of the state of Kansas.”
The voters can determine the second part, but I can vouch for the first. I met Roberts at a Kansas State football game at West Virginia two years ago, and he was decked out in the gear of his alma mater. We had a nice chat about the Wildcats, who crushed the Mountaineers that night on their way to the Big 12 championship. Roberts knew his stuff, that team and former K-State squads.
To cover his sports bases, Roberts and Gov. Sam Brownback were photographed on Monday at an Overland Park rally with Roberts donning a Royals cap and Brownback wearing a jersey.
Fans, no doubt, but some research suggests that local sports victories can give incumbents a small boost, and according to an average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, Roberts and Brownback are in near dead-heats against Greg Orman, an Independent, and Davis, respectively.
No less than control of the Senate could swing with the Roberts-Orman race.
Aligning with the Royals and, for Roberts, the Wildcats — the only undefeated team in Big 12 play entering Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State — is smart politics even with the Royals falling in the decisive game on Wednesday.
As for the Snyder endorsement, I spoke with some Kansas State fans who applauded their coach for taking a stand and others who believe a coach as popular and admired as Snyder should remain impartial. K-State faithful support both candidates. Leave political talk at the tailgate, some said.
During a previous election, Grant Teaff, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association told me that coaches are encouraged to be active in different ways, such as educating their athletes on the voting process, especially those who attend schools in different states from their homes.
But in elections, coaches take sides at their own risk, he said, and cited a potential recruiting problem. The political persuasion of a prospect’s family my greatly differ from a coach who has publicly stated his preference.
College sports makes for an interesting political game. Football tends to lean right, at least based on those who have run for office as Republicans — Osborne, Jack Kemp, J.C. Watts, Steve Largent to name a few. Basketball leans left: Dave Bing, Bill Bradley, Tom McMillen. And President Obama has never hid his love of hoops.
I always thought Snyder would make an excellent politician, a coach for a Congressional District, say. Driven, tireless, and he’d find a way to win. Plus his 16 Goals For Success would make for much better political ads than what we get now. I bet he’d have Roberts’ endorsement.