Winners and losers are the stuff of which this magazine is made but, for the most part, the contests we write about take place on well-marked fields, tracks, courts, courses and rinks, and the rules that govern them are clearly defined. This week, beginning on page 82, Pat Ryan raises the hand of a winner in a kind of contest whose rules are far less formal: the knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out, anything-goes game of politics. Pat is talking about how the former Buffalo Bills quarterback, Jack Kemp, got to be the new Republican Congressman from New York's 39th District, and she doesn't make it sound simple.
It may be that our writers will all have to become as expert as Pat in this previously foreign field; more and more ex-athletes are turning their talents to the political arena. After all, the Governor of California himself is an ex-sportscaster and that state's new Senator is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney.
Two sports figures who can already be rated as veterans in the game of politics—track and field's Bob Mathias and baseball's Vinegar Bend Mizell—won again on the hustings early last month and will return for another two years to the House of Representatives. Mathias begins his third term so popular among his constituents in Bakersfield, Calif. that he gained 64.3% of the vote after campaigning for only 2½ weeks.
But where there are winners, there are bound to be losers as well. Election year 1970 saw a number of sports figures counted out, including former Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Erickson, who failed in an attempt to reach the U.S. Senate; Oregon Track Coach Bill Bowerman, who campaigned unsuccessfully for his state's Assembly; Bud Wilkinson's son Jay, a former Duke University football player who was seeking a House seat from Oklahoma; and that celebrated old New York Giant—and, more recently, Washington Redskin—Sam Huff. According to Sam, who was defeated in his bid to become the Representative from West Virginia's 1st Congressional District, the violence of football is nothing compared to the spookiness of politics.
December 7, 1970
"In sports," says Sam, "your opponent always faces you eyeball to eyeball. In politics you are fighting shadows. You never know where your enemy is."
Huff spent $50,000 in his three-month primary campaign. He put 15,000 miles on his car and wore out two pairs of shoes visiting factories and mines. "I'd have a little brochure and try to hand it to someone," says Sam, "and he would turn his back. When you're in sports they're always crowding around wanting things. But in politics the shoe is on the other foot. People want to make you practically get down on your knees. After a while you find yourself asking, 'Why should I put up with this aggravation? Why?'
"I became very angry at the end," admits Sam. "I could take the slanders, the innuendos. I could take everything but what they did to me in my home town of Farmington. I was raised there. I went to school there. It's a town of just 700 people and there are green signs out on the highway as you enter. 'This is the home of Sam Huff, All-America,' is what the signs all say. But two days before the primary, at which I was defeated, the mayor of Farmington held a free pig roast for my opponent."
We haven't checked to see if ABC is planning a sequel to that sporting tour de force, The Violent World of Sam Huff, but if they are they could do worse than sign up Jack Kemp as a technical adviser. As Pat Ryan tells it, Kemp has now been roasted a little himself. And Jack won.