Earlier this week in Denver, as the presidential candidates prepared for their first debate, Mitt Romney proudly appeared with former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, whom he celebrated as an exemplar of leadership on and off the field. Mr. Elway responded by calling Mr. Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, “the comeback team America needs.”
Previous to that orgy of mutual admiration, Mr. Romney was delighted accept the endorsement in Ohio of golfing great Jack Nicklaus, whom the candidate called “the greatest athlete of the 20th century.”
Barack Obama and Sports Illustrated would take issue with that characterization. The latter bestowed the honor of “sportsman of the century” on Muhammad Ali, whom Mr. Obama credited with “inspiring the world” when the former champ endorsed him.
The two candidates can both claim support from NFL players past and present, though Elway is perhaps the most illustrious endorser in that line of work.
Mr. Obama is way ahead among NBA players, present and past. Those who support him include Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
Mr. Romney doesn’t rate among gymnasts, whereas Mr. Obama can claim the support of the entire roster of the so-called “fierce five” who won gold at the London Games. Unhappily for him, most of those women aren’t old enough to vote.
On the other hand, former figure skating champs Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton and Kristi Yamaguchi have endorsed Mr. Romney, as has former speed skater Dan Jansen, and they are all well over 18.
It’s hard to say how many voters say to themselves, “Any candidate good enough for Jack Nicklaus is good enough for me.” But in a world where Clint Eastwood is given the opportunity to say whatever he wants to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention, it would be silly to suggest that the opinions and endorsements of celebrities, athletic and otherwise, don’t matter to the candidates.
It would also be foolish to think that all of the endorsements are equally serious, but at least one guy from the world of our games has left no doubt about the intensity of his commitment. On the same day Elway slapped Mr. Romney on the back and vice versa, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson jumped into the presidential fray. He proclaimed that if he had to choose between his team having a winning season and Mr. Romney prevailing in the election, he’d sacrifice the Jets to achieve a Romney win.
I wonder how that played in the huddle during practice the next day?