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Voice of the Nation

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  January 21, 2010 09:32 AM

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There's a lesson in all this. Mangle the names of two juiced-up sluggers following a historic, if fraudulent, home run chase, and your political career is fine. Just so long as they're not from here.

Make some minor flub concerning the Red Sox, however, and you're done for.

We saw just the latest incarnation of the political baseball gaffe this past weekend when Martha Coakley - assumingly as dry-witted as a Yuma stone - called former Red Sox pitcher and Scott Brown supporter Curt Schilling "a Yankee fan." Them's fightin' words here in Red Sox Nation, 'course, causing a stir in the Republican campaign, which used the statement to label Coakley as out of touch.

If Coakley was trying to be funny, it went over about as well as a Jay Leno retrospective with Team Conan. The Wall Street Journal suggests her Schilling "joke" will go down in infamy along with John Kerry's "Manny Ortiz" and Mitt Romney's assumption that the Red Sox apparently broke the Coise in 2005. Please. If any statement Coakley made related to the Red Sox doomed her fate, it was the one about shaking hands in the cold at Fenway Park.

But that's beside the point. The question is whether or not we as a voting public put too much stock into a politician's ability to calculate JD Drew's OPS value, something Theo Epstein has been criticized for selling perhaps a bit too hard this offseason. When the team in question is a focus of provincial pride, and the public can't count on the person representing them to actually be one of them, perhaps it's not a stretch to ask that they at least be able to be somewhat in touch with something that fuels a unique passion in this state and region.

If you can't possess even the simplest knowledge of one of the area's most beloved focuses, how should you be expected to understand which way the people lean on any one particular issue?

But as if Red Sox fans didn't have enough animosity from an American baseball public tired of its "Nation," "Sweet Caroline," and smothering off-field marketing, now they're burdened by the accusation from Democrat backers that their team has single-handedly killed universal healthcare. Now that's power. Today, the health of the nation, tomorrow, the Red Sox are pulling the troops out of the Middle East. Half-price Fenway Franks for all. (Obviously, that's a joke. Hot dogs will always be full price.)

Politico references how Kerry was booed at Fenway following his "Manny Ortez" blunder, but maybe...and this may be a stretch here...maybe it had something to do with a general number in the stands that weren't pleased with the man's policies in his run for President? Nah, couldn't be that. Because, despite the results, those Red Sox fans are so darned passionate that they took a silly remark and carried it all the way to the ballot box, convincing the rest of the nation that George Bush was a better option for a second term. Viva la Papi! 

When it comes to political pundits, the reaction of the crime is often more foolish than the incident itself. It's much easier to break down campaign failure in terms of sports and pop culture than it is on issues at hand. And so, Massachusetts voters are being painted as wishy-washy yahoos who'll base their decisions on something as minor as a crack about the local nine. That's an assumption that characterizes the general public, frankly, as geeks that don't have a life outside of Yawkey and Van Ness. While, yes, there are plenty of those around these parts, lumping everyone into one particular demographic is a pretty lazy way to do analysis.

For instance, all Massachusetts residents vote Democrat. You heard that one?

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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