- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sen. George Allen recalled last week how his father, a legendary football coach, would tell him: Every time you lose, a little piece of you dies.

Mr. Allen, a Virginia Republican, pondered the words for a moment as his staff cleared his suite of Senate offices of records, framed pictures, personal effects and other remnants of a six-year term — a melancholy task forced by last month’s re-election loss.

“No one likes losing, especially competitive people,” said Mr. Allen as the 109th Congress ended. “But the reality is it was very close — a close game — and we lost.”

Still very much influenced by the life and lessons of his father, George H. Allen, 16 years after his death, the loss is clearly difficult, with clear parallels.

Though the elder Allen never coached a National Football League (NFL) team to a losing season, compiled a better won-lost ratio than most other coaches and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, each loss left the coach and his family joyless and grim.

“George looks at it the way my father did,” said Bruce Allen, a younger brother of the senator and general manager of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “It’s not the individual, not himself, that he felt bad for. It was for his team and all the people who supported him.”

Mr. Allen, a former college quarterback, often uses football, which defined his upbringing, as an allegory for his adult life.

“It’s like a game you lose by one point,” Mr. Allen said of his loss to Republican-turned-Democrat James H. Webb Jr. by three-tenths of a percentage point. “You go through every single play of the game and think, ‘Gosh, if we didn’t jump offsides here, if we’d run this other play….’ There are literally hundreds [of plays] in a football game and hundreds in this campaign you could look back on.”

The loss likely ends Mr. Allen’s White House ambitions, leaves him looking for work and gives Democrats control of Congress for the first time in 12 years.

Mr. Allen, a former Virginia governor who was wildly popular in the mid-1990s for abolishing parole, reforming welfare to require work of those who are able and toughening academic standards for public schools, had won two statewide elections convincingly.

For 13 years, he was the most dominant and inspirational figure in Virginia’s Republican Party. He was viewed as a serious prospect for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

The turning point in the Senate race this year, according to polls and political analysts, came during an Aug. 11 rally at which he called a Webb staffer of Indian descent “macaca,” a word considered a slur in some cultures. Video footage of the incident raced across the Internet and became a national story.

His 16-point lead was erased, but Mr. Allen thinks the incident was just one of many miscues.

“The damage of that was we were distracted from talking about issues and ideas, solutions or my record of performance,” he said.

Still, Mr. Allen thinks the hardest, most personal episode in the campaign was the revelation about his mother’s Jewish ancestry, which she had hidden for decades from her children. Etty Allen was raised as a Christian in Tunisia but knew the horror of the imprisonment of her father, Felix Lumbroso, in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

“It was intensely personal,” Mr. Allen said. He recalled the day in August, at age 54, that he learned from her that both of his maternal grandparents were Jews. She trembled as she told him, he said.

“She said, ‘You can’t tell anybody. Swear on Pup-Pup’s head. That’s my grandfather. That’s what we called him,’ ” he said, his voice soft. “I was thinking, ‘Well, I’m not going to have my mother pass away on account of politics.’ ”

The future now includes time to explore the Lumbroso family legacy and its Jewish heritage, Mr. Allen said.

He also looks forward to the Sunday newspaper for the color comics he can read with his 8-year-old daughter, Brooke, undeterred by unflattering headlines about himself.

Mr. Allen won’t discuss whether he will seek elected office again, but still recited the other half of his father’s football-to-life Zen about losing and death.

“Every time you win, you are reborn,” he said with a smile.

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