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John Walters
October 30, 2000
An NFL Films special equates the gridiron and the hustings
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October 30, 2000

Political Football

An NFL Films special equates the gridiron and the hustings

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If George W. Bush were a quarterback, NBC political pundit Tim Russert tells interviewer (and NFL Films president) Steve Sabol during the one-hour, two-part ESPN special Politics & Football, he would be Kenny Stabler. "He has a little bit of the buccaneer in him," says Russert. "I'm not going to say that he has a little Snake in him," Russert adds, referring to the nickname of the Raiders' All-Pro of the 1970s. "That might get me in trouble."

The notion that the Republican presidential candidate would be a lefthanded, left-coast quarterback is open to debate. So are most attempts to marry pigskin and pork barrels, as Politics & Football pithily demonstrates. Part I will be telecast on Monday at 2:30 a.m. and repeated at 4 p.m., and Part II will be shown at the same times on Nov. 13. Sabol, who for the first episode sat down for chats with Russert and conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, was inspired to create this special after reading an old Whittier College game program. "I came across a photo of Richard Nixon, who played line there," says Sabol. "The more research we did, the more we saw how politics and football gravitate toward each other."

In Part I, for example, Limbaugh notes that both are contact sports. "Politics is smash-mouth," says Limbaugh, whose first name is the very personification of a conservative offense. "You're trying to pummel your opponent into the ground."

Only afterward do you worry about healthcare reform.