Andrew Johnson noted below John Kerry’s Gallification of the Red Sox unofficial theme song, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” when he expressed his appreciation of MLB teams’ across the country playing “Sweet Adeline” this week — a lyrical little blunder, if you will. But this is actually just one instance in a long history of Democratic politicians’ flubbing their attempts to show off their blue-collar, regular-Bostonian sporting interests. (Admittedly, if Massachusetts actually had Republican politicians, presumably they’d have a history of similar problems.)
Boston mayor Tom Menino has had his share: Just this January during the NFL playoffs, for instance, he told reporters of his appreciation for the talents of Patriots player Vince “Wilcock,” and then explained that another player “is doing a great job of stepping in for Gonk, because Gonk is hurt,” referring to tight end Rob Gronkowski, or “Gronk.” (He did so while paying serious attention to a sheet of notes, too, as you can see in the NFL.com video.) In 2011, he praised Patriots star receiver “Wes Weckler” and coined another term for Gronk, “Grabowski.”
When unveiling a new statue of hockey legend Bobby Orr a few years back and reminiscing about Boston sports legends, Menino got his sports confused: “Havlicek stole the ball; Fisk waving the ball fair; Flutie launching the Hail Mary pass; Varitek splitting the uprights.” Jason Varitek was a longtime catcher for the Red Sox, while Adam Vinatieri was the Patriots player who frequently kicked touchdowns, if you will (and was playing for the Colts at the time of Menino’s speech anyway).
That same year, he praised the work of NBA commissioner “Donald Sterns” when trying to name David Stern. Two years later, he had kind words for Celtics players “Hondo” and “K.J.,” when referring to Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett (“K.G.”).
In fairness, Menino is known for his diction and pronunciation problems outside of the sports arena, too, winning him the sobriquet “Mumbles.” (He’s also a well-loved mayor – besides his tiff with Chick-fil-A, he has been quite a good executive, and Bostonians will be very sad to see him retire.)
During the 2010 special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, Democratic candidate and state attorney general Martha Coakley was asked about whether she was disappointed that Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was supporting her opponent, Scott Brown. Demonstrating the sangfroid that led her to lose a statewide Massachusetts race to a rookie Republican, she derided him as “another Yankee fan.” Her interviewer asked her if she really meant it, she responded, “Yes,” and then admitted after a pause, “no, alright, I’m wrong.”
John Kerry, unsurprisingly, has also had a hard time over the years proving his Boston-sports-fan bona fides. During the 2004 presidential campaign, for instance, he expressed his admiration for Red Sox hitter “Manny Ortiz,” conflating sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz (this, during the year the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years and I think even the gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo could have told you the Red Sox lineup). Then, when someone pointed out the error, Kerry explained of course he knew the two players, but pronounced David Ortiz’s name “Or-tizz” or “Or-tezz,” rather than “Or-teez,” as the name’s pronounced.
When asked his favorite Red Sox player at one point, Kerry identified Eddie Yost — the right name, but wrong team, since Yost never played a day for the Sox, spending almost entire career with the Washington Senators.
One year he also lauded Bruins longtime goalie Tim Thomas as “Tim O’Brien” (Vietnam on the brain, Senator?) Kerry’s inability to relate to the Boston sports fan, though, isn’t quite unique – he actually probably just has a hard time relating to average Joe spectator, period, once calling the Green Bay Packers’ stadium “Lambert Field.”
Surprisingly, Massachusetts transplant Mitt Romney (Coakley, Kerry, and Menino are all actually from the Boston area) appears to have been pretty much error-free in his political career (when it comes to Boston sports, I mean). The only mistake I know of is from a debate during the 2008 primary season, during which Romney explained how Red Sox fans waited “87 long years” for a world championship until 2004. The correct number, well known to fans, is 86 years, between 1918 and 2004.
Apparently, today, Kerry later corrected himself and went for extra credit, saying “I meant ‘Sweet Caroline.’ I want to make sure everybody knows I can sing ‘Sweet Caroline,’ but I ain’t singing it now.” I’m still a little skeptical that he could actually sing the lyrics, no matter how much time he’s spent at Fenway: “Sweet Caroline” is played during the middle of every Red Sox eighth inning, but it’s really just a lot of Sam Adam–soaked New Englanders shouting along, “Bah bah bah!” and joining in at “So good! So good!” Which is glorious.