When Game 2 of the NBA finals began in Boston last week, pro basketball editor Ted Beitchman was there at court-side. You may not think that bears noting, but the significant fact is that Beitchman made his travel plans well before the championship pairing was set. He knew long ago that Boston or Los Angeles would make the finals. It is a presidential election year, and as Beitchman regularly points out, in every such year since 1960, either the Celtics or the Lakers have won the NBA title.
Beitchman knew this because, aside from his other passions—the music of Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter, H√§agen-Dazs rum raisin ice cream and bow ties—he is a devoted student of politics as well as pro basketball.
"I have a theory that there is a cosmic relationship between the NBA and presidential politics," Beitchman says. "In 1960 they started coming together. John F. Kennedy was a Bostonian and was nominated in the L.A. Sports Arena, where the Lakers then played. In 1964 the San Francisco Warriors played in the finals, and Barry Goldwater was nominated in the Cow Palace. In 1972, a month after the NBA finals, there was the break-in at Larry O'Brien's office at Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate. In 1976 O'Brien was NBA commissioner. In 1984 the playoffs expanded from 12 to 16 teams, keeping pace with the plethora of Democratic presidential aspirants. The 76ers are Ted Kennedy—tough fight the last time, didn't have the stomach for another this time. The Lakers are Gary Hart, out of the West with a new idea, a 6'9" lead guard. Boston is Walter Mondale, the Establishment front-runner.
"And every year Boston won, the Democrats took the White House."
June 10, 1984
Oops—in '68 Republican Richard Nixon won, and Boston beat L.A.
"Well, it's just a theory," Beitchman says. "I'm still working on it."
While he's working on it, let us mention that Beitchman has been at SI for nearly three years, editing boxing as well as pro basketball. In addition to the NBA story on page 56, he edited the piece on the Mancini-Bramble fight (page 50).
Beitchman played high school basketball for one year at Philadelphia's Northeast High. "I was so terrible," he says, "the next year they made me the manager." In politics, though, he has been starting material. He canvassed voters in the presidential campaigns of Robert Kennedy, Sargent Shriver and Ted Kennedy, and in the mayoral campaigns of New York's John Lindsay and Philadelphia's Bill Green. Lindsay was his only winner, and as Beitchman says, "That figured. Lindsay is six-three."
Beitchman thinks we may yet see a pro player turned politician in the White House. In 1976 he liked Congressman Morris Udall (D., Ariz.), perhaps the only one-eyed politico ever to play pro basketball (with the old Denver Nuggets of the defunct NBL), and he doesn't count out the possibility of Bill Bradley or Tom McMillen someday making a run. Then Beitchman's theory on the intertwining of the NBA and politics would be complete.