Please Stop Asking Senate Candidates About the Red Sox

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) greets a supporter outside Fenway Park. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/statesenatorscottbrown/7717103128/sizes/z/in/photostream/">Scott Brown</a>/Flickr

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Technically, Elizabeth Warren whiffed and Scott Brown punted. With five minutes to spare in Monday night’s Massachusetts Senate debate, moderator David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, concluded he’d spent enough time grilling the candidates on Afghanistan (about two-and-half minutes), and on the ethnic background of Elizabeth Warren’s mother (about seven minutes), and decided to use his last question on a matter he considered to be of great importance.

“I saved the most contentious for last,” Gregory said, a smile creeping across his face. “The worst Red Sox season in decades, I hate to tell you. So, Ms. Warren, does Bobby Valentine deserve another year, or should he be fired?”

Valentine is objectively terrible and should be fired. But at a debate for a race that could determine which party controls the Senate it shouldn’t have even been asked.

“I had such hopes for Bobby Valentine,” Warren said, referring to the franchise’s beleaguered manager. “I’m still just in wounded mode on that one.”

Gregory followed up: “Stick around? Should he be given another chance or should he be fired?”

“Oh…”

“This is the back page of the Boston Herald we’re talking tomorrow morning, come on you’ve got to commit!” Gregory said.

“Then I’d give him another year,” Warren said. “Let him build it, yeah, let’s see if he can do it.”

“Give him another year!” Gregory turned the question on Brown. “Senator?”

“Well, I remember at the beginning of the season that Professor Warren said they were gonna win 90 games and obviously that hasn’t happened,” he said. “It’s been very disappointing, but I’ll leave that up to the Red Sox management. But certainly we need to do better next year.”

Gregory, incredulous again: “You’re not gonna commit, one way or the other?”

“No, there’s a lot of problems and they need to work it out for themselves.”

So there you have it. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren have officially weighed in on whether the manager of the local baseball team during the 2012 season should return as manager for the start of the 2013 season. All because of a pretty simple misconception—namely, that Democratic attorney general Martha Coakley’s off-key comments about Fenway Park in 2010 caused her to lose her special election to Brown. Brown didn’t beat Coakley in 2010 because Coakley was insufficiently enamored with the home team. If that were the case, Sen. John Kerry (whose professed favorite player, “Manny Ortez,” is actually a made-up person), would have been thrown out of office long ago. Coakley’s famed dismissal of the notion of shaking hands outside Fenway Park, in the cold, mattered because it reflected a voter outreach strategy that seemed to write off a large part of the population. (It wasn’t Red Sox fans Coakley had spurned at Fenway; it was Bruins fans, who were there for a hockey game.)

Neither Brown nor Warren gave the correct answer on Monday night in Lowell. Valentine is objectively terrible and should be fired. But at a debate for a race that could determine which party controls the Senate—and the very real public policy implications it entails—it shouldn’t have even been asked. Massachusetts isn’t the only state where residents have a rooting interest in the local sports team; it’s just the only state where out-of-town political journalists believe they have a responsibility to ask about it.

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