There’s a passage in Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights in which he imagines Michael Dukakis attending a high school football game in West Texas.
He could have pulled down his tie and unbuttoned his collar. He could have gone to the concession stand to eat a frito pie and a chilli dog and then wash it all down with one of those dill pickles that came carefully wrapped in silver foil.
I read Friday Night Lights at the end of the 04 campaign and it struck me that what Democrats need is a sports fan. Ed Rendell was the first to come to mind. Unlike so many other politicians, (Rod Blagojevich and Sam Katz come to mind) when Rendell calls into a sports talk show like Philadelphia’s WIP, he knows what he’s talking about and has fun. I was thus surprised to see that in announcing his candidacy for PA governor Lynn Swann criticized Rendell’s sports punditry:
If elected, he said he would not resume his broadcasting career even on a part-time basis. Rendell moonlights as a Philadelphia Eagles post-game analyst for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia.
“I think the people of Pennsylvania would rather have a governor who is committed to being there,” Swann said.
I am not the biggest of Rendell fans– I know too many people rustrated with his timidity. But it seems a mistake for Swann to take on Rendell’s the sports populist.
(BTW, Bissinger also wrote A Prayer for the City, a behind-the-scenes look at Rendell’s first term as mayor of Philadelphia and one of the best urban politics books I’ve read.)