Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football group criticizes Kerry

In recent presidential elections, political strategists have tended to target newly identified voting blocs deemed important to a candidate’s success.

In the 1990s, campaign gurus coveted soccer moms. More recently, the trendy group to pursue has been NASCAR dads. With these sports-titled segments of the population being chased, some followers of football — what many say is America’s most popular sport — are trying to bring the gridiron to the battleground.

Football Fans for Truth, a 527 group based out of Arlington, Va., warns football fans to be wary of Democratic candidate John Kerry’s sports acumen. They contend the senator’s propensity to muddle sports references, coupled with his own questionable athletic ability, make Kerry unfit to represent a nation of sports fans in the White House.


“We’re trying to alert sports fans to Kerry’s football fumbles,” Football Fans for Truth spokesman Michael Barbera said. “If you purport to be a true sports fan, then you shouldn’t be making these [verbal mistakes]. I think that plays into the authenticity in how you present yourself to voters.”

The group lists numerous occasions when Kerry has displayed a shortage of sports knowledge. Topping the list is Kerry’s now-famous “Lambert Field” comment, when the Massachusetts senator erroneously referred to the Green Bay Packers’ home, Lambeau Field, during a Wisconsin campaign visit.

For those who cannot get tickets to Lambert, Kerry might suggest viewing the game on the big screens at the downtown Madison eatery “Main Street Brats.”

Kerry’s not cheering for the Badgers, either. During a campaign stop in Michigan, he pledged support for the rival Ohio State Buckeyes.

Kerry’s struggles are not limited to football, and even his home state teams are subject to verbal gaffes. In a June 20 column by ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons, Kerry claimed to be a big fan of “Manny Ortez,” apparently a hybrid player composed of Boston Red Sox sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

Joking about Kerry’s sports blunders, Football Fans for Truth founders Dino Panagopoulos and Jeff Larroca decided to start the 527 organization at their annual fantasy football draft. The group has since installed two billboards in the Green Bay area, and its website,, receives 130,000 hits a day.

“We’re a political advocacy group that just happens to concentrate on politics and sports,” Barbera said. “We’re trying to have some fun with it. We gear ourselves toward being fun and clever. Politics doesn’t need to be life and death all the time.”

Not everyone has seen the humor, however. The group’s website posts numerous angry e-mails from people believing the organization is nitpicking a non-issue. Barbera counters them, saying Football Fans for Truth is not trying to trivialize the election but merely seeking to bring Kerry’s record on sports to light — and having fun while doing it.

Barbera said he sees a “genuine” sports fan in President Bush, an avid baseball fan who served as managing general partner of the Texas Rangers from 1989-94.

“He even pokes fun at himself for trading away (Chicago Cubs all-star) Sammy Sosa,” Barbera said.

In light of Kerry’s stumbles, the president has sought to forge a connection with Wisconsin sports fans. Former Packers great Bart Starr toured with Vice President Dick Cheney during a tour through Wisconsin in September, while Bush made certain to properly pronounce the Packers’ stadium during a rally in West Allis.

Despite Kerry’s gaffes, George Twigg, Kerry’s Wisconsin communications director, does not anticipate any loss of support among the Packer faithful.

“I think people are more concerned with George Bush mixing up Iran and Iraq,” Twigg said.

Twigg said the Democrat referred to the Packers stadium prior to flying to St. Louis, where the airfield is named Lambert Field.

But Lambert Field was far from an isolated incident, Football Fans for Truth notes. And while the group may not be as noticeable as its Swift Boat counterparts, Football Fans for Truth maintains fans need to know where Kerry stands on the issue of sports expertise.

Besides, he throws like a girl, the group says.

“There’s a big difference between someone who throws a strike from the top of the mound and someone who bounces the pitch from [closer in],” Barbera said, alluding to a ceremonial first pitch by Kerry at a Red Sox game. The pitch, thrown short of an Iraqi war veteran catcher, did little to confuse the Fenway crowd with Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.

Or is that Pedro Schilling?

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