Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), like so many baseball fans, greeted the arrival of another baseball season with a tweet.
But his Red Sox-related micro-missive on Thursday — a mash of smack talk and contextual information at the completely the wrong time — was a bit of strike out. Sort of like someone breaking in to make a joke about a known story before the story is over. It was just weird.
“Hey Yanks fans: red sox lost opening day 2004 and how’d that work out for ya?” read the tweet from Kerry, leading to the immediate hater retort: How did your 2004 work out, Sen. Kerry? It’s unclear what Yankee fans or Yankees themselves would be saying — the team didn’t play on Thursday, so beyond some sort of generic hit on the the Red Sox, this seemed like a defense against, no one? In any event, it’s part of a long history of Kerry’s awkward relationship with the Olde Towne Team.
Tweeting about the Sox has never really been Kerry’s forte. Earlier this year, when Sox captain and longtime catcher Jason Varitek decided to hang it up, Kerry tweeted this: “Thanks @RedSox ‘s #JasonVaritek for hell of a 15-year run and for stickin mitt in A-Rod’s grill.” It’s hard to believe the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would use the word “grill” to refer to Yankees Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez’s face.
John Kerry is the Senator from Massachusetts. So he has to like the Red Sox. He shows up to throw the first pitch when asked, although it doesn’t often go particularly well (check out this NPR report from 2004, when Kerry was booed and the young boy interviewed for the piece said he threw like a girl). And although Kerry needn’t be a super fan, he often sounds like a rookie. This July 20, 2004 report from Peter Gammons, sums it up:
John Kerry last week professed to be a big fan of “Manny Ortez,” then re-emphasized the phoofery by correcting it to “David Ortez.” No, that was Dave (Baby) Cortez and “The Happy Organ.” A few years back Kerry went on a Boston station with Eddie Andelman and said “my favorite Red Sox player of all time is The Walking Man, Eddie Yost,” who never played for the Red Sox. Kerry is going to sweep New England. He’s going to get 70 percent of the vote in Massachusetts. He doesn’t have to be a Red Sox fan, all he has to do is not be John Ashcroft.
Now, this is not just Sen. Kerry’s problem. Awkward embraces of hometown sports teams are a requirement for politicians of all stripes. It’s just particularly potent in Massachusetts, where there aren’t many casual fans. Here’s the Daily Beast on former Massachusetts Gov. and current GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney:
Is Romney a Red Sox “fan” as we understand it? He often brags that his family has season tickets at Fenway. But that doesn’t prove Romney is a fan; that proves Romney is rich. No, to see how closely Romney follows his favorite team, we go to St. Petersburg, Fla., on June 15. While the Republican frontrunner watched Josh Beckett throw a one-hitter, he marveled that the Rays were playing home games indoors. “I thought I was going to be in sweltering heat,” Romney said, “but instead it’s cool.” Tropicana Field has been hosting major-league games since 1998. The comment marked a watershed of sorts. Mitt Romney was an even phonier Red Sox fan than John Kerry.
The solution — divide and stop talking, as the old saying goes. Like church and state, the Sox and politics should probably be separated. Let’s be serious, most pols can’t fake their fandom very well, the fans aren’t trying to think about politics when they are at the park. So let’s just not.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.