The story is as old as politics and sports.
A politician goes campaigning in a far-off land and seeks to gin up the audience by invoking local, beloved sports lore — only to get it all wrong.
Sure as the Washington Redskins will lose their next game, those voters punish the politician 10 times more grievously for that single sports gaffe than if he had, say, blundered some vitally important fact about deficits or nuclear weaponry.
In 2004, John Kerry was in Wisconsin when he butchered the name of the Green Bay Packers’ hallowed Lambeau Field, calling the stadium “Lambert” Field.
In 2012, Mitt Romney — the Republican version of John Kerry — tried to show his race track cred at the Daytona 500 by declaring his devotion to NASCAR.
“I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners.”
And in perhaps the greats sports pander of all time, Chicago-born Hillary Clinton threw her lifelong beloved Cubs under the team bus and pledged fealty to the New York Yankees — just as she was gearing up to run for the Senate.
“The fact is, I’ve always been a Yankees fan,” she said at the time. As always, with the Clintons, the tell for when they are lying is when they say “truth” or “fact.”
Then along comes President Trump, for whom all the laws of politics seem to be suspended.
At a rollicking campaign rally in North Carolina on Monday, Mr. Trump decided to talk some football. Not an altogether bad choice in the land of the Carolina Panthers.
“Tom Brady had a pretty good game the other night, right?” he said somewhat tentatively, referring to the New England Patriots’ longtime star quarterback and the savage 33-3 beat down he delivered to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Surprisingly, a number of Trump supporters cheered, though some in the audience gamely booed.
Unfazed, Mr. Trump continued to prod and needle the crowd.
“How good a coach — whether you like it or not, and I know you’re North Carolina — but how good a coach, in all fairness, right, is Coach Belichick?”
The crowd’s cheers dimmed, perhaps growing tired of the president’s taunting game. After all, the Patriots have won six Super Bowls. The Carolina Panthers haven’t won their first.
“I know you want to be cool,” Mr. Trump told his hushing fans. “But he’s pretty good, right? We have to appreciate genius. We all like genius.”
And then he dropped it.
Within a minute, Mr. Trump was back to talking about guns and God and glory and the raucous crowd was back to swinging from the rafters and hooting their lungs out for their “favorite president.”
That scene perfectly sums up the difference between Mr. Trump and all the fakers and frauds who came before him. Mr. Kerry’s “Lambert” Field flub and Mr. Romney’s NASCAR car wreck revealed what monumental fakers both men are.
Like many politicians, they were trying to be something they were not — and completely exposed themselves.
Mr. Trump never tries to be something he is not. He is always focused on selling himself as the consistent same product wherever he is. The conversations he has with people in private are pretty much the exact same conversations he has with people in public.
Mrs. Clinton’s naked pandering between Chicago and New York reveals what political whores the Clintons have always been. They can be trusted by absolutely no one.
Mr. Trump, on the other hand, cherishes the opportunity to speak the hard truth, even when people don’t want to hear it. It’s why so many people cringe over his “impolitic” comments.
The reason Mr. Trump’s North Carolina supporters did not cheer Bill Belichick’s name is not because they think he is a terrible coach. They didn’t cheer his name because they know President Trump was telling them the hard truth about how good a coach he really is.
President Trump’s purposeful foray into the politics of football may have cost him some momentary cheers there in North Carolina. But it reminded everyone how much he loves to win and what a “stable genius” he is.
• Contact Charles Hurt at email@example.com or on Twitter @charleshurt.
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