Let’s also assume that, as football goes, he has as much good will for the Auburn Tigers as Updyke did for Toomer’s trees. To the governor from Tuscaloosa, losing to Auburn may be equal part travesty and tragedy. Shudder the thought.
As this fictitious story goes, the governor may one day deliver a speech in Auburn — which, to his chagrin, is in Alabama, so he can’t consider it enemy territory, political or otherwise. Voters are voters.
While in Lee County, the governor might choose to have a little fun with this thing called the Auburn-Alabama rivalry, the Chivas Regal of college sports.
What if he made a Tide-themed crack about the validity of Cam Newton’s Heisman Trophy?
What if he said, “Yeah, you got us in 2010, but what about that 42-14 whuppin’ we put on you guys last year?”
Or, coldly, “You guys have Gene Chizik. We have Nick Saban. Enough said.”
Or, simply, “Fourteen … And you?”
None of this has happened, of course. It won’t.
But politics is politics — which means most anything can occur when partisanship, election-year hyperbole and sports allegiances combine into an odd mixture. Just look at what happened to President Barack Obama this week in Boston.
Obama is a fan of Chicago’s teams, particular the White Sox, the baseball team that plays on the city’s South Side. Obama, like presidents before him, hosts championship squads at White House photo ops each year. But he makes no bones about it: He’s a Chicago guy who, in this case, is eager for the White Sox to contend for the World Series.
As fate would have it, Obama’s campaign stop in Boston — home base for his opponent, Mitt Romney — coincided with big news for the president’s baseball team. The White Sox traded for Kevin Youkilis, a popular player with the Boston Red Sox. In baseball circles, Youkilis is known as the heart and soul of the Red Sox, whose season thus far has been a disappointment.
Understandably, the president is giddy about his Sox’s newest addition.
So when he stepped to the podium Monday at Boston’s Symphony Hall, he said, with a bit of bravado, “Boston, I just want to say thank you for Youkilis.”
Boos were heard.
“I didn’t think I’d get any boos out of here. I guess I should not have brought up baseball. My mistake.”
After a bit, the campaign appearance carried on.
That would have been the end of it.
Instead, Romney’s press secretary and the White House press secretary embarked on the inevitable in modern elections: a not-so-good-natured sparring match via email and Twitter.
Andrea Saul, the Romney spokeswoman, emailed reporters: “Maybe the president should have congratulated (the Red Sox) for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007.”
Jay Carney, the Obama spokesman and a Red Sox fan, told reporters, “Anyone who knows Boston … knows that the preponderance of people shouting in response to what the president said about Youkilis were saying ‘Yooooouk’ and not ‘booo’ for God’s sake.”
Saul, in an email: “He chose to mock (the Red Sox) for trading away one of its favorite players.”
Carney, on Twitter: “Some booed. Others, like me, cried ‘Yoooouk!’ in sad memoriam.”
Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, on Twitter: “True sports fans understand loyalty.”
(Hmmm … Does that mean Republicans aren’t true sports fans? I’d think not …)
Say what you will about Obama’s fandom display in Boston. Election years are bloody messes; this livened things up a bit. We need more of it. Plus, Obama, like anyone, can be a fan. It’s silly to think otherwise. George W. Bush owned a share of a baseball team, Gerald Ford loved golf and played college football, Jimmy Carter adored tennis, Bill Clinton passionately followed his Arkansas Razorbacks and Richard Nixon was a huge NFL fan, especially the Washington Redskins. No one said presidents had to check their allegiances at the White House door.
After all, it’s sports, not politics.
It’s fun — though mix them at your own risk.
As for Bentley, I’d never expect him to choose the Obama route. (On anything, really.) Politics aside, the doctor-turned-governor is surely too smart to inject himself into the constant boil that is the Tide-Tiger enmity. Too many people would see no humor in good-natured ribbing from the governor’s mansion. The furor would be overwhelming.
But wouldn’t it be fun if he did?
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/Ptutor_Star.