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Morning Bytes: Sports, politics: A bad mix

Now that the impending NBA and Stanley Cup Finals are about to usher in another round of political piggybacking, let me be the first to urge a separation of sports and state.

Now that the impending NBA and Stanley Cup Finals are about to usher in another round of political piggybacking, let me be the first to urge a separation of sports and state.

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the rest of our bewigged founding fathers erred gravely by not including in the Constitution a prohibition on politicians attempting to capitalize on the popularity of sports.

Otherwise, we would be spared those ridiculous wagers between governors and mayors, the congratulatory clubhouse phone conversations between script-reading presidents and tongue-tied athletes, the obligatory and by now way-overdone champions' White House visits, the presentations of presidential jerseys, the self-serving campaign references to World Series winners or Olympic gold medalists.

We the people are weary of these hackneyed traditions.

In fact, I may have an unreasonable seizure the next time I see two governors wagering ribs against broccoli, or a senatorial candidate comparing sparkplug manufacturers with the 1980 U.S. hockey team, or a president hoisting a jersey with his name on the back and gazing at it admiringly, as if he's contemplating wearing it to the next state dinner.

While these little stage shows must produce some positive bumps in the polls, artistically they seem gratuitous; trivial; and, worst of all, embarrassing.

Very few elected officials are capable of segueing gracefully from politics to sports. Most who try end up appearing as out of place as Charlie Manuel would be at a Barnes & Noble.

In December 1973, for example, one week after he became the nation's 40th vice president, Gerald Ford spoke at the Heisman Trophy award banquet honoring Penn State's John Cappelletti.

Ford noted his admiration for both "Joe Cappelletti" and the Nittany Lion running back's famously bespectacled coach, "my good friend, John Fraterno".

In 1981, after Pete Rose set the NL record for base hits, he and President Ronald Reagan spent several minutes attempting to get a workable phone connection as the whole world cringed. When one was finally established, Rose began the awkward conversation by saying, "Yeah, how ya doin'?"

President Nixon, a football junkie and a calculating politician, combined both those traits in 1969. He invoked the wrath of Pennsylvania - as well as John Fraterno - when he snubbed Penn State and unilaterally declared Texas that year's national football champion. Most historians now conclude the decision was one of the opening moves in Nixon's Southern Strategy.

And I'll bet you a case of Tastykakes that none of this nation's desperately unemployed were comforted by the spectacle of President Obama filling out his NCAA pool in the Oval Office. (Not only that, but how could a Democrat pick four No. 1 seeds?)

I suppose I can see the temptation. After all, politics and sports, our two great national passions, have so much in common - big money, big egos, and big lies; disputed outcomes; purchased victories; and dubious connections to sneaks.

Chewing the Fat(Heads)

I already know that when it comes to tobacco use, baseball is hypocritical. But a recent interview on the same subject has also made me skeptical about the value of an Ivy League education.

The Giants' Mark DeRosa, a Penn graduate, has been chewing tobacco for 15 years. Here's how DeRosa defended his dipping to HBO:

"It's a pressure-filled game. If it's something that calms me down, I'm a grown man. I want to be able to use it."

Tiger will be there

Tiger Woods said he expected to play at the U.S. Open at Congressional next month.

No word yet on whether he also expects to golf.

Solutions to Phils' offensive slump

1. Hit-and-run.

2. Run-and-hide.

Possible solutions to the NFL lockout

1. Lock both sides in a conference room and make them watch Saturday's Preakness.

2. Have Super Pretzel cater the negotiating sessions.

3. Let Jerry Jones and Chad Ochocinco hash it out.

Uniform madness

This baseball uniform carousel is getting a little ridiculous.

In one three-game series in Atlanta last weekend, the Phillies wore their own uniforms and those of the Philadelphia Stars and the 1971-91 Phils.

This weekend they will don the uniforms of the House of David, the 1960 Levittown Little League World Series champions, and the Rockford Peaches.

Morning Bytes: NASCAR Note of the Week

A recent Forbes magazine survey disclosed that driver Jimmie Johnson is the nation's most influential athlete.

Jimmie Johnson?

I hadn't realized an "influential" athlete was someone you wouldn't recognize if you tripped over him in line at the Piggly Wiggly.

- Frank Fitzpatrick