Reports out of Boston indicate that former Red Sox hero Curt Schilling has “some interest” in running for the Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, which would appear at first glance to be a losing proposition all around.
For one thing, haven’t we had more than enough ex-jocks who confuse physical strength with statesmanship? For another, Schilling would be running as an avowed political conservative in one of the nation’s most liberal states.
Maybe you should forget the idea, Curt baby. In other words, stick a (bloody) sock in it.
Don’t think about Jim Bunning, the Hall of Fame flinger who plans to retire after two terms as a Republican senator from Kentucky. Think about Walter Johnson, the old Washington Senators icon who was talked into running for the House as a Republican from Maryland in 1940, got himself clobbered and wondered for the rest of his days why he ever tossed a political pitch.
Or maybe Tom McMillen, the dandy Maryland Terrapins basketball player of the early 1970s, who spent three terms on the Democratic side of the House without unduly distinguishing himself. (Maybe he needed Terps co-star Len Elmore at his side here, too.)
This is not to suggest that former athletes lack enough brainpower to succeed in the political game, only that mere fame is not enough by itself to guarantee success. For better or worse, not everybody can be Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura.
The possibility that Schilling might join the Back Bay crowd panting to succeed Kennedy arose a few days ago when he told a TV reporter: “I’ve been contacted by people whose opinion I give credence to and listen to, and I listened. … To get to there from where I am today, many, many things would have to align themselves. … I am not going to comment further on the matter.”
Say what? Ya gotta admit the guy already sounds like a pol.
Yet there’s reasonable doubt, despite this snippet, that Schilling could master the art of saying nothing and making it sound like something - a skill every successful campaigner requires. Throughout his long and illustrious baseball career (216-146 record, 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts with five clubs from 1988 to 2007), he usually said what was on his mind no matter the consequences. And as we all know, forthrightness is no way to win at the ballot box.
He has a history of altercations with the media, which might not of itself guarantee defeat. After Arizona Republic reporter Pedro Gomez repeatedly zapped Schilling when he was with the Diamondbacks, the pitcher said of critics: “What makes them bad people? … I cannot nail the exact reason, but I know some: jealousy, bitterness, the need to be ‘different.’ ”
And when Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe called him “the Big Blowhard,” Schilling went him one better on his blog by describing the columnist as “a hack,” “a tool” and “an idiot,” plus some less printable epithets.
Nor has Schilling hidden his feelings about other players. He has ripped Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds, among others, though he later apologized on his blog for bleating on a radio show that Bonds was “cheating on his wife, cheating on his taxes and cheating on the game.”
“It was absolutely irresponsible and wrong to say what I did,” Schilling admitted. And as we all know, politicians almost never publicly apologize unless they are discovered cheating on their wives.
Even while hurling the Diamondbacks and Red Sox to World Series championships in this decade, Schilling got his feet wet politically. He campaigned vigorously for the re-election of President George W. Bush in 2004 while several of the Red Sox owners were supporting Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic challenger. And last year he expressed in no uncertain terms his support for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid.
We don’t know how far Schilling will go in politics, but Massachusetts need not be his political base. After all, he is one of only 11 major leaguers born in Alaska, which is looking for a governor to succeed Sarah Palin.
Still, you have to wonder if Schilling, despite his glittering baseball stats, is a born loser. After all, his major league career began with the 1988 Orioles, who dropped their first 21 games and finished 54-107.
Let’s keep an eye on Curt Schilling, though. Stranger things than his prospective second career have happened, such as former Redskins quarterback flop Heath Shuler turning up in Congress from North Carolina. In politics, as in sports, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.