- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

Abraham Lincoln was the Shawn Bradley of 19th-century American politics. From the bottom of his muddy boots to the summit of his stovepipe hat, Lincoln measured about 6-foot-10. But did Abe ever make noises about playing professional basketball? Of course not. (Granted, there was no professional basketball back then, but still )
I mention this because yet another hoops player is talking about launching a political career. Karl Malone's agent told CNN the other day that Malone is considering running for governor of Arkansas when his playing days are over. That's right, he wants to sit in the Chair Formerly Occupied by Bill Clinton.
Funny, I thought Postmaster General would be more up the Mailman's alley.
"He's got a lot of ideas," agent Dwight Manley said.
Like what? Like dressing state Supreme Court justices in black and white striped robes and giving each of them a whistle?
I just came up with a great campaign slogan for him, by the way:
Karl Malone: He's Got Vision. (Basically because he's 6-9 and can see over everybody.)
Or how about this:
He'll Do to Criminals What He Did to Isiah Thomas. (Accompanied by a photo of Malone laying a 40-stitch elbow on Isiah's eye in '91.)
"Who knows [what might happen if he ran]?" the Mailman said before a recent practice. "Look at Governor Ventura. He won, and he's a wrestler."
I'd like to look at Gov. Ventura, Karl, but I can't bear to.
Sorry to be so cynical. It's just that I was still recovering from Charles Barkley's announcement, a while back, that he'd like to be governor of Alabama. With Malone in one state mansion and Barkley in another, well, I just wonder if they really want to downsize like that. I mean, wouldn't they have to put half their stuff in storage?
This is what happens, I suppose, when you spend most of your adult life with microphones being waved in your face. You begin to think you know what you're talking about no matter what the subject. You figure: If I can run a pick and roll, there's no reason why I can't run a state. And pretty soon you're saying something silly like, "I want to be, um, King of the World!"
What does Sir Charles want to be governor of Alabama for, anyway? Heck, he already has a bully pulpit his gig at TNT. He sits on his throne, a red carpet at his feet, and he not only pontificates about basketball, he offers his picks for the Academy Awards, too. It's perfect for him and it also pays a lot better than a government position, the last time I checked.
As for Malone, you have to ask yourself: Why would a guy who was born in Louisiana and went to Louisiana Tech run for office in Arkansas (the carpetbagger)? Unless he has something to hide, that is.
Maybe we're just witnessing the athletic version of the mid-life crisis (2002 edition). What, after all, are Malone and Barkley supposed to do with themselves after they retire? What's going to keep their ego well-nourished and their sense of self-worth properly inflated? They're used to getting all this attention and adulation. They're used to people hanging on their every word. What other occupation approximates that?
Well, politics, for one.
In politics, you can hold news conferences and get your picture in the paper and kiss babies and get your picture in the paper and ride around in helicopters and get your picture in the paper. It's probably the closest thing there is to the jock's life. Instead of four-year contracts, you have four-year terms. Instead of games to win, you have bills to pass. Instead of salary caps, you have balanced budgets. In some states, there's even a governmental offseason.
Not that some athletes haven't made fine politicians. Jack Kemp got himself on a presidential ticket (and, had he and Bob Dole prevailed, would have been a heartbeat away from being America's Head Coach). Bill Bradley, Jim Bunning, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Tom McMillen, Steve Largent, J.C. Watts a credit to their sport, each and every one of them.
Wait, a thought just occurred to me. This is Malone's 17th season and he still doesn't have a ring. Barkley, meanwhile, played 16 years be-bopping from Philadelphia to Phoenix to Houston without capturing a championship. Maybe this talk of running for office doesn't have anything to do with vanity. Maybe they just want to win something.

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