Keep hoops alive

Keep hoops alive

hmortman@njdc.com

As a college basketball star playing for Princeton University in 1965, Bill Bradley set NCAA tournament records for the most points in a Final Four game (58), free-throw accuracy in one tourney game (16/16), and the highest free-throw percentage in all tourney games (90). His team set a record for the most points in a Final Four game (118), and Bradley was named the tournament's most valuable player. So it made sense for Bradley to take his presidential campaign to St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 27 to mix sports and politics on Final Four weekend.

The St. Petersburg Times' Tim Nickens followed Bradley around. "Taking advantage of his basketball connections, the former New York Knicks player mingled with reporters and planned to see at least part of the games." He also threw out the first ball at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' spring training game. Perhaps looking to a general election matchup with Gov. George W. Bush, a former owner of baseball's Texas Rangers, Bradley "said being a player is better than being a team owner." Bradley: "The people identify more with players." But first he must get through a primary contest with Vice President Al Gore, for which Bradley used a basketball metaphor: "This is really one-on-one for 11 months." (St. Petersburg Times, 3/28)

Bradley's campaign has also-and logically-caught the attention of Sports Illustrated. Alexander Wolff wrote in the mag's "Scorecard" column: "Determined to establish his bona fides as New Jersey's junior Senator since he was elected two decades ago, Bradley shunned basketball for years. Now, as a long shot to wrest the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination from Al Gore, he is counting on the game to help his cause. Basketball, he says, is `like a language-not just words, but a deep experience many American men and women have had.' " For now, Bradley "has only a smattering of staff, fewer reporters, and no Secret Service agents in tow-in other words, he has many unguarded moments. Political handlers live in fear of what their candidates might say in such situations, but with the help of the idiom of the game, Bradley is trying to invert conventional wisdom, trying to prove anew what his old opponents know: Give him an unguarded moment and he'll make you pay." (Sports Illustrated, 3/29)

Egg-sit Strategy

With Texas Gov. George W. Bush's presidential "boomlet on the rise," as The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater reported, his campaign "has begun limiting access by reporters trying to pin him down on the issues." The traditional Easter egg hunt on the grounds of the Governor's Mansion in Austin-previously open to the press-"was declared off-limits to reporters. Cameras were allowed but not reporters, who might ask pesky questions."

Earlier, the "usually chatty" Bush issued a statement on the NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia, "but he refused to answer questions on any other subject." (The Dallas Morning News, 3/28)

2000: A Food Odessa

Louisiana heads into the 2000 presidential nominating season trying once again to challenge Iowa's status as the most important caucus state. Among those expected to compete for Louisiana votes is Dan Quayle, who last week appeared at a prayer breakfast hosted by Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon.

But was Quayle's speech the only thing on people's minds in Jefferson Parish? Parish the thought. While Quayle's speech was "well-received," The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune's Stephanie Grace and Pam Louwagie seemed equally fascinated by the event's food-or lack of it.

Odessa's Catering "ran out of eggs, pastries, coffee, and other breakfast staples, as well as tableware. Moreover, some guests who did get served reported moldy croissants and milk that curdled in their coffee."

Cajuns don't cotton well to a food shortage, so three of Coulon's aides "ducked out in the middle of the breakfast" to buy doughnuts and pastries for hungry guests, who had paid $17 a head or $125 to $150 per eight-person table. Odessa owner Sam Felton blamed the 1,300 guests for the shortages: "We prepared two sausage patties per person, three strips of bacon. We did about 2,500 eggs. It was ridiculous, the way people rushed the tables. Several people, it was like the all-you-can-eat buffet at Shoney's." (3/27)

Politics could learn a lesson from showbiz: Always leave 'em wanting more.

Rich Man, Poor Gore

Remember Rich Little? For years he was the king of impressions, doing dead-on, hilarious takes of famous people, particularly politicians. But in recent times his "dying craft" has fallen out of fashion as comedy has gone in a different direction. The nightclubs closed and the shows stopped booking impressionists.

Well, he's got a new CD out and he's back on tour promoting it. One song on "Rich Little's Dumb-ettes: A 'Little' Tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes," the CD, is titled "Call Me Irresponsible." It's sung by "Bill Clinton." Little: "Clinton has been very good to me these past few years. He's given me a lot of good material."

Little is currently working on impressions of Al Gore and Elizabeth H. Dole. Little: "Al Gore? To get him right I'm taking a lot of Valium. Elizabeth Dole? Now that's going to be a real stretch for me. You really think she's got a chance to win?" (Chicago Tribune, 3/26)

Missouri Meth

For political junkies, Missouri's got one of the hottest Senate races in the country, with Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan taking on Republican Sen. John Ashcroft.

One of the hot issues of the race is the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Carnahan spokesman Chris Sifford: "We have made significant strides in terms of combating the meth problem in Missouri. We have significantly toughened the sentencing laws for methamphetamine manufacturing." Ashcroft's spokesman Steve Hilton said he thinks "the Governor should speak for himself on precisely how methamphetamine has taken over the state of Missouri and has become a law enforcement epidemic."

Carnahan's spokesman "bristled at the remark": "If the implication is that the governor is to blame for Missouri's methamphetamine problem, that's a bit of a stretch." (Associated Press, 3/29)

Semper Fee

Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell visited Virginia Tech this week to give a speech about volunteerism. His fee for a four-hour campus visit was $70,000, plus travel expenses. Powell was "by far the costliest speaker Tech has ever hired." The Roanoke Times & World News' Ian Zack put the $70,000 price tag in perspective: The 1996 median family income in local Montgomery County was $33,978, according to figures from the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. More perspective: When former President Jimmy Carter visited Tech 10 years ago, his fee was $15,000. Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick charged $18,000 the same year. ABC News' Cokie Roberts was paid $25,000 for a 1994 appearance. Also in 1994, Harvard University professor and author Stephen Jay Gould got $15,000. (Roanoke Times & World News, 3/28)

Meanwhile, as Elizabeth H. Dole explores a run for the presidency, she is still delivering paid speeches. She addressed 3,300 people at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania on March 29. The price: $25,000. (Associated Press, 3/29)

A Penny Saved . . .

Politicians are always looking out for No. 1-just ask Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. Roll Call's Ed Henry reported in "Heard on the Hill" that just before his inaugural ball after he was sworn in as Governor in 1991, Voinovich "reached into a urinal to pick out a penny. He rinsed off the penny and slipped it into his pocket." Voinovich spokesman Mike Dawson: "I was there. It's true. I just watched him put it in his pocket." (3/29)

Golf Gaffe?

It was a glorious spring day on March 29, so President Clinton mixed phone calls to NATO heads of state with playing golf. Here's how it played on the tube.

CNN's Bill Press: "Kosovo is not all that's on the President's mind. With today's burst of spring weather, the commander in chief was out playing golf." (Crossfire, CNN, 3/29)

CNBC's Chris Matthews asked ex-Clinton Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich: "Bill Clinton is famed for his compartmentalization, but why in God's name was he playing golf today in the middle of this mayhem?" Reich: "Well, I can't answer that, Chris. I, I suppose he needed some relaxation from all of the tension he's had."

Matthews: "Are you being comical? I mean, do you mean that seriously?" Reich: "I mean that seriously." (Hardball, CNBC, 3/29)

The Washington Times' Bill Sammon: "At some point you have to let the President take a day off or take an afternoon off, whether we're at war or not." (Special Report, Fox News Channel, 3/29)

ABC's Sam Donaldson: "When people at the White House were asked about that, and the propriety of the President, the appearance of him playing golf while NATO war planes are in the air, they said, `He's worked very hard, and he needed this and deserved this relaxation.' " (World News Tonight, 3/29)

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