November 3rd, 2008
08:26 AM ET
10 years ago

In battleground states, Palin becomes a superfan

Sarah Palin dropped the puck at a Philadelphia Flyers game in in October.

Sarah Palin dropped the puck at a Philadelphia Flyers game in in October.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) - Sarah Palin isn’t just your average sports fan. In fact, if her stump speeches are any indicator, the Republican vice presidential candidate is the greatest sports fan in the entire country.

Like any politician who would spend time campaigning in minor-league baseball stadiums and college gyms in battleground states around the country, Palin kicks off most of her speeches by name-dropping the local sports team, a dependable applause line for any candidate.

But the governor digs deeper. Some candidates who might be content to pepper their speeches with a passing references to any given state’s well-known professional football or baseball squad, but with the help of a teleprompter, Palin likes to plug teams most Americans have never heard of. The Green Bay Gamblers, for instance, or the Mesa State Mavericks.

Journalists traveling with the candidate know what's coming from the moment Palin's campaign schedule hits their BlackBerrys. In Ohio, a Buckeye football reference is to be expected. In Indiana, she'll inevitably remind voters that “Hoosiers” is her favorite movie. At a fundraiser in San Antonio, Palin told the assembled donors: “We’re Spurs fans. One of my heroes has always been David Robinson.”

Palin’s trademark rhetorical move is not just to praise swing state sporting traditions, but to weave them into sometimes unwieldy political analogies that summon the McCain campaign's never-say-die spirit.

“It’s so great to be here,” she told a crowd at Elon University in North Carolina in October. “Home of the Elon Phoenix. There’s something providential about that. I hope you all got a chance to watch last night’s debate because the man from Phoenix, yes, the man from Phoenix proved once again that he is the best choice to be our next president.”

Outside Richmond International Raceway in Virginia, Palin recalled this year’s Chevy Rock ‘N Roll 400, which saw Jimmie Johnson sneak by Tony Stewart to take the checkered flag.

“I hear it was quite a thrill," she said. “The lead going back and forth lap after lap nobody knew who was going to win right up to the finish line. Well John McCain and I are nearing the finish line here too of another close race and you know it is looking a lot like that Rock and Roll 400. Our race is going be close.”

A few weeks later, campaigning outside a Bass Pro Shops store in Missouri, Palin acknowledged that her speechwriters might have pushed a fishing metaphor just a bit too far.

“And whether you're a bass pro or a regular Joe, you can help us ... this is a stretch ... but you can help us reel in a big one on November 4,” she said.

Aside from an interview last month with ESPN in which she reminisced about her high school basketball glory days, Palin’s most high-profile public appeals to sports fans have been a pair of ceremonial puck-drops at NHL games: One in St. Louis and another in Philadelphia, where Palin smiled through a thunderous volley of boos from the city’s notoriously merciless sports fans.

Despite her poor reception at the Flyers season opener - a game the home team went on to lose 4-3 - Palin has still tried to appeal to Philadelphians, using officially licensed NFL and Major League Baseball apparel to make her case.

She took a break from debate prep in September to go jogging through the city’s streets in a Donovan McNabb jersey, and she greeted supporters in a Rittenhouse Square bar with a brand new Phillies windbreaker that was purchased earlier that day by a campaign volunteer. Inside the bar, one Republican gave her a broken-in Flyers cap, which she immediately put on her head.

But is the vice presidential candidate a sports panderer? Her varying allegiances have left her vulnerable to serious charges of flip-flopping, at least from opposition researchers over at the Democratic National Committee.

On October 15 in New Hampshire, during the heat of the American League pennant chase, Palin cheered on the Boston Red Sox to a packed high school football stadium.

“We’re just 20 days out from the election and it’s going to come right down to the wire," she said, “and we're counting on you because Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor, and that's exactly what you can help us do on November 4!”

Never mind that days earlier, Palin had toasted Boston’s opponent in the American League Championship Series, the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, who, according to Palin, also embodied the GOP ticket's underdog id.

“It’s great to be here in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays too. I know that earlier some of the experts this year were kind of tough on the Rays,” Palin said, drawing laughs. “I’ve been there.”

“But what a difference a season can make, and now the Rays in the playoffs for the first time ever,” she continued. “So Florida knows a little something about turning an underdog into a victor, and together that's what we can do."

There have also been some notable stumbles, most recently in Erie, Pennsylvania, where Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates fans booed Palin for congratulating the World Series champion Phillies.

In Findlay, Ohio earlier this month - the hometown of NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - Palin was jeered for mentioning the Pittsburgh Steelers star. Findlay is Browns and Bengals territory.

And then there was the fundraiser in Texas, where Palin flubbed the name of a legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback, calling him “Roger Starbuck.” Sensing an error, Palin paused for a moment and corrected herself. “I said Staubach.”

Even her soft-spoken husband Todd, a four-time champion of the Iron Dog snowmobile race, has broadened his interest in the Lower 48’s sports teams over the last two months. As a matter of fact, some of the First Dude’s first words uttered on the campaign trail were football-focused.

“I just want to thank all of you for supporting this ticket,” he said at a fundraiser in Canton, Ohio in early September. “It’s the right ticket to support, and you’ve got a beautiful state. Go Buckeyes.”

Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. independant

    Greatest sports fan in the country. Fine. Let her stick with that!
    Keep her out of politics and away from anywhere near running our country. Being a fan of sports (even the being the greatest sports fan) is more in her league.

    November 3, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  2. JL

    Puh-lease. I know superfans and you, miss, are no superfan.

    November 3, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. Junius

    The Flyers fans were right to BOO this terrible government official. We only boo players who have done poorly or are performing poorly. She is a poorly educated, bordering on ignorant public official who claims that she knows what is right for this country. Well I along with the rest of my philadelphian bretheren whole heartely . . .


    November 3, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  4. Tom Westland

    Pandering with local sports teams, while spreading falsehoods with no factual basis is not a wining strategy. Scare tactics left over from the Rove era are all they have. If they are distorting the truth now, why does anyone think it will stop after the election? There is an old song, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets". The gist of it is that Lola is a very manipulative lady, to whom the ends justifies the means. Not a Presidental quality I want in my candidate.

    November 3, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  5. The Apostate

    Just one more example of empty rhetoric politics... and the American people are finally saying enough (as long as they are able to vote – election reform needed!)

    November 3, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Solider

    SUPERFAN- A VERY large mouthed fan that blows a HUGE amount of false information around for human consumption.

    Well someone had to say's only because I just bought a gag gift.. a PALIN 2012 t-shirt..

    November 3, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  7. robin

    She is a national treasure . Even liberals who meet her , fianlly meet her are impressed , with her guenuine qualities . I am sad that so many African American are voting based on race . They are going to vote for qualities many of them ( christian ) revile . Think , pray before you vote .

    November 3, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  8. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    I hope she's not really a fan of any of y favorite teams.
    Philly went on a 5 game losing streak (maybe more?) starting with the game she dropped the ceremonial first puck for them. Then,
    one of the hockey players (in St. Louis I think) was injured right after Palin dropped the ceremonial first puck and they too had diifculty winning.
    Now, you throw the Spurs in there and they're off to an 0-2 start.

    Hmm, her track record looks to mimic the impression she gave during the Charles Gibson and Katie Couric interviews.

    November 3, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  9. rob

    she was booed-whats your point.The woman is a total idiot

    November 3, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. Lupe,TX

    24 hours and she will blasted into oblivion.

    November 3, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  11. mitch

    palin is a disgrace to the human race.

    November 3, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. dj

    Americans, please wake up........Unqualified Palin was a political stunt what she is trying to accomplish.....great acting but this is not Hollywood. It's unimaginable to phantom her representing out country in one of the highest positions in the land. Right now we are very vulnerable and they know it! Don't feed into this unqualified sidekick!! I have always been a Republican........not this time...... Obama-Biden has my vote!

    November 3, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  13. douglas in minnesota

    She's not really a sports fan in any sense of the word. She merely reads the script that scrolls across the tele-prompter; which was written by professional speech-writers. These writers know which "buttons to push" to get those "feel-good" reactions from locals, to make them feel "special."

    November 3, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  14. dave

    I almost feel sorry for her... almost

    November 3, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  15. Country First

    Obama went as far as having an Infobrainwashing stunt before the World Series. Very unAmerican. Very desperate. I'm a Phillies fan that will vote for McCain.

    November 3, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. PG

    I thought the McCain camp didn't like celebrities?

    November 3, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  17. karen-phoenix

    As a 40 year long republican this year I'm voting for Obama/Biden because McCain sold his soul to the devil Palin–so uneducated!!!
    THe republican party has become the party of right wing radicals and skinheads and this NOT my party!!! I even was a republican election judge for 14 years. Sooooo sad to see the republican party going down this very radical track!!!!
    God Bless Obama/Biden

    November 3, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  18. KG, Twin Cities

    I can give you all kinds of stats on my beloved Twins but that hardly qualifies me for even a local political office, let alone the national/int'l stage. Know your territory, Governor. That being said - let's all root for a Vikings/Bills Superbowl. Finally, one of them will in it!

    November 3, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  19. OBAMA for Leader

    Pandering to the point they can't keep their lies straight.........LOL

    It is appalling how in sincere this ticket has become.

    Fake talk express !!!!!!!!!!

    Obama / Biden 08

    November 3, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  20. John. Austin, TX

    She's as dumb as a hockey puck. Has anyone noticed how she says "yes" after every sentence in her speech? "And we're going to drill, YES!" Man that's so annoying.

    November 3, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  21. Sandy

    Sarah Palin is indeed a simpleton. She said she wanted to be a sportscaster but didn't want to move to the east coast. That alone is proof that she's not bright and the way she was taken in by a couple of Canadian pranksters proves that she's not too swift.

    November 3, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  22. Debbie

    Well, at least she knows about sports! Is that what the job of the Vice-President is because she still doesn't know.

    November 3, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. john for OBAMA

    yea and we booed the heck out of her in PHILLY!!!

    November 3, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
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