Chris Christie, NFL fandom, and the presidency

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How 'bout them Cowboys, Gov. Christie?
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How 'bout them Cowboys, Gov. Christie?

Two NFL teams play in the New Jersey governor's state. He still roots for the Cowboys — and that will help him come 2016

Having grown up in Houston, I am conditioned to hate all things Dallas, especially the Cowboys. Let's not mince words: The Cowboys are a perennially over-hyped collection of choking dogs obsessed over by a national media egged on by throngs of bandwagon-hopping Cowboys fans, most of whom have never stepped foot anywhere near Dallas (not that I'm bitter or anything).

Considering my distaste for the Cowboys, you can imagine how I felt upon reading that the governor of New Jersey cheers for America's team. I was mildly alarmed. But then I gave it some thought and I've changed my mind. In fact, if one fact sums Chris Christie's personality up, it very well may be that he happily admitted that not only does he not cheer for the New York Giants — the most popular team in the tri-state area — he actively cheers for their most hated rival.

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A candidate's relationship with sport tells us something about his or her political skills. And really, the better sports fan typically wins in presidential elections. (This is not necessarily a causal relationship.) Barack Obama may not be able to throw a particularly inspiring first pitch, but his love of sport is well established and you can imagine the man sitting in the White House residence yelling at his television as the Bears find yet another way to lose. He even makes a big event out of picking his NCAA tournament bracket. The same can hardly be said of Mitt Romney. George W. Bush was clearly a big fan — he once had an ownership stake in the Texas rangers. And remember, sports fans everywhere, including some die-hard liberals, raised an eyebrow when John Kerry referred to the most hallowed ground in American football as "Lambert Stadium."

As for Al Gore, well, he was never was able to convince most of us that he spent much time drinking beer and watching ball with his buddies. George H.W. Bush may have looked like a dork, but he was the captain of the Yale baseball team and clearly likes his sports. Before my baseball team — the Astros — became woefully horrific, Bush could regularly be spotted right behind the plate at Astros games. Michael Dukakis, who could never really convince the average American that he would be worth having a beer with at a ballgame, couldn't match Bush in this regard. Unfortunately for elder George, in his second contest, he ran into a bona-fide football fan from SEC country who no one had any doubt loved his Saturdays. Also, at the time, the economy sucked.

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But let's get back to Chris Christie. Part of the sports fan code requires undying allegiance to one's team. This is why rabid sports fans cannot resist the temptation of advertising their sporting allegiance, even when they happen to be surrounded by hordes of angry, intoxicated fans of the opposition. And as real sports fans understand, we get stuck to a team early in life (sometimes for good reasons, sometimes because when we were six, we liked Team X's uniforms). Once you are on a bandwagon, hopping off is grounds for sports fan excommunication.

These are things sports fans take seriously. And Christie just confirmed what his other behavior has so often indicated: that he does not have a fake bone in his enormous body. He is committed, and he is loyal — even when it is potentially unpopular. For exactly that reason, expect many Americans to eagerly proclaim the following as we get closer to 2016: Chris Christie for president!

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