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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

These Guys Have a Sporting Chance at the Presidency

March 07, 2000|RANDY HARVEY

In other sections of the newspaper, you can find ratings that various interest groups--the Christian Coalition, Americans for Democratic Action and the League of Conservation Voters, for example--have assigned to various politicians.

Only in this section--this space, actually--can you find the ratings of Sports Heroes for America--SHAM.

Those ratings are particularly relevant today, Super Tuesday. Voters in 16 states, among them California, will participate in presidential primaries involving major candidates who are as well known to viewers of "SportsCenter" as "The McLaughlin Group."

Three of the four have excellent SHAM credentials.

BILL BRADLEY: 100%.

Before his basketball games at Princeton, he sought inspiration by listening to a recording of "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music."

He climbed them all. He won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 1964, became the most valuable player of the 1965 Final Four after scoring 58 points in Princeton's winning third-place game and earned two NBA championship rings as a New York Knick.

If Al Gore believes he has Bradley beaten, he should read Phil Jackson's "Sacred Hoops." Jackson, who used to guard Bradley during Knick practices, said he demanded constant attention.

"If your mind wandered for a millisecond, he'd vanish into thin air, then reappear on the other side of the court with a wide open shot," Jackson wrote.

In "A Sense of Where You Are," a 1965 New Yorker profile of Bradley, John McPhee wrote that most of Bradley's friends believed he was destined to become governor of his home state, Missouri.

"The chief dissent comes from people who look beyond the steppingstone of the Missouri State House and calmly tell you that Bradley is going to be President," McPhee wrote.

GEORGE W. BUSH: 95%.

He has already outdone his dad.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, never got beyond first base, the position he played at Yale. George W., the first son, owned a major league team.

He joined 27 other investors to buy the Texas Rangers in 1989. When they sold five years later, his initial investment of $606,302 netted him $14.9 million, which became the first installment in his campaign war chest.

In the meantime, he served as the team's managing general partner because he was the only one who didn't mind talking to reporters. He also knew that the exposure would enhance his future in politics.

He would rather have been playing. He once said that his father's ambition was to be president and his was to be Willie Mays.

"But I couldn't hit the curveball," he said.

Once during his tenure with the Rangers he donned tennis shoes and swim trunks and shagged fly balls in center field.

He liked mingling with the players and could scratch and spit with the best of them.

But, as their commander in chief, he preferred to delegate, claiming that he was in charge merely of "hats and bats."

So, despite his joke that the worst mistake he ever made was trading Sammy Sosa, you can't blame that on him, any more than you can credit him for building the nucleus of what eventually became a playoff team around Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez.

JOHN MCCAIN: 95%.

From a sports perspective, there is no argument over which Republican is the reform candidate.

As former boxer at the Naval Academy and fan of the sport, he has used his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to steer the Muhammad Ali Act that would govern promoters.

He redoubled his efforts after attending last year's Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield fight in Madison Square Garden that ended in a controversial draw.

"We must prevent boxers from being cheated," and fans from being denied "the benefits of a truly honest and legitimate sport," McCain said.

Promoter Bob Arum said that he initially opposed the bill.

"I figured Sen. McCain would be upset," he said. "Instead, he had his staff contact me and then made some changes in the bill based on my recommendations. He's one of the most stand-up guys I've seen run for political office. I'm a liberal Democrat, but I love John McCain."

McCain, however, met with more resistance in efforts to use his influence to further International Olympic Committee reform. He finally surrendered, figuring a run for the presidency would be less challenging.

AL GORE: 15%.

He was an outstanding schoolboy athlete and is the only candidate to have completed a marathon.

But his athletic prowess, like his charisma, remains underrated. A poll of likely voters conducted by the Young Republican Online Community Network chose Gore as the candidate "least likely to reach home plate while throwing out the first pitch."

*

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.

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