EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 22, 2009

A hesitant vote for the bloody sock

Politics aside, supporting Schilling a natural for this Red Sox fan

David Willis

You loved him as the headstrong ace of the Red Sox squad that finally ended 86 years of frustration and won the World Series.

Now, will the residents of Massachusetts love Curt Schilling as their U.S. senator?

It was hardly a surprise that, less than a day after legendary U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy passed away last month, former Red Sox ace Schilling was on the radio commenting on the politician's death. After all, Schilling would likely comment on a strip mall opening in Methuen if given the chance.

It was also hardly a shock that the righty later expressed interest in filling Kennedy's seat on his blog. Schilling has long been outspoken about his very conservative political beliefs, and has expressed interest in running for office once his career ended.

What was a surprise to this reporter, however, was my gut reaction — that I would probably vote for Schilling.

Now, for my confession. At the risk of alienating about half the readership and more than a few co-workers, I admit that I am a liberal. I am a registered independent, but I have long had liberal leanings.

I am not an economist, nor am I an expert on the housing market. But my political stance is well thought out. I minored in political science in college because, after watching every episode of 'The West Wing' about 20 times, I thought I wanted to move to Washington and become a White House beat reporter. That motivation quickly died off, but the interest in politics did not.

So, it would stand to reason that I would vote against anyone with Schilling's Republican views.

Schilling, a registered independent, is an outspoken conservative who supported George W. Bush and John McCain in the last two presidential elections (both of whom I voted against). And that is really just the start of the vast differences between Schilling and me.

So, really, why would I even consider voting for him?

It's simple — because I was a Red Sox fan long before I knew or cared what a majority whip was.

Now, over the years my relationship with the Red Sox has gone from an unabashed dedication to more of a professional appreciation. I don't consider myself a Pink Hat (even though I do have a lime green Sox hat for what that's worth).

But, like most Sox fans, the memories of the 2004 World Series are still fresh in my mind. Was the bloody sock overplayed? Maybe. But there is a good chance that had the Sox not traded for Schilling, Boston fans may still be hearing the chants of "1918."

In 2004, at 38-years-old, Schilling won the second most games in his major league career (21) and then won three starts in the playoffs. And three years later, while not the pitcher he once was, he won three playoff games to help the Sox win another World Series title.

That being said, Schilling has his doubters, including Salem State political science professor and self-admitted Red Sox fan Daniel Mulcare.

"Massachusetts is much too Democratic a state to elect someone with the background of Schilling," said Mulcare, a Fairhaven native. "To have someone from pop culture win an election, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you need to have a state that is split between Democrats and Republicans, and is looking for change. Massachusetts doesn't seem to be looking for change."

I recently discussed this matter with a highly-opinionated colleague, friend and fellow liberal. Among more colorful expressions, the outspoken writer referred to me as a sycophant and a "typical Boston Fan."

I'd like to think both of those characterizations are wrong. But, if I were to vote for Schilling, it would be hard to disagree with my friend. And based on discussions I have had with other Red Sox fans, I would not be alone.

If Schilling runs, sports allegiances will be tested. On the opposite side of Schilling's conservative nature is Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who announced he would be running for the senate seat as a Democrat.

"Schilling has (vice president) Joe Biden disease," said Mulcare. "(Schilling) often says things that have you scratching your head and not knowing what he meant. And he doesn't always seem informed when he's making his evaluations about the political world, at least not as informed as someone running for the Senate should be."

I do not like Curt Schilling's politics. In fact, they may well be the exact opposite of mine.

But, with every replay I see of the boisterous right-hander pitching for the Red Sox, I can't help but think I couldn't resist voting for the bloody sock — I mean Schilling.

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