One of the set pieces of political life is the friendly wager. Usually over a sports rivalry, such transactions typically involve one lawmaker betting a hometown specialty (whatever is their district’s claim-to-fame culinary export, be it pierogi, crab cakes, or barbecue) against their opponent’s similar offering.
Pretty tame stuff.
So we applaud those who are willing to truly put some skin in the game — like David Axelrod, the adviser to President Obama who vowed to shave his mustache if his boss loses Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.
Considering that the now salt-and-pepper crumb-catcher has defined Axelrod’s signature look for nearly 40 years, that’s really upping the ante.
And we’re not counting among significant wagers the $10,000 bet that Obama’s GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, once offered during a GOP debate to settle a dispute over health-care policy. For him, that’s pocket change.
A Romney aide declined to put any hair on the line, but MSNBC host Joe Scarborough countered Axelrod’s dare with one of his own, promising to grow a mustache to rival Axelrod’s if Obama wins either Florida or North Carolina.
Other exceptions to the lame-bet status quo are rare. One reasonably high-stakes wager ended with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) belting out an awkward (see the video below) rendition of the Elton John song “Rocket Man” to settle up with Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida after the Florida Gators defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2009 BCS title game. In another interesting BCS bet, Nelson and his Gators bested Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in 2007. Brown wound up attempting to do 55 push-ups (equal to the number of the total score of the game).
But if Axelrod winds up losing his hair-raising bet, there’s a precedent for backing out. Back in 2009, Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) offered to shave his impressive mane of hair if his beloved Phillies lost to the New York Yankees during the World Series. They did, and when he shied away from “paying up,” Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), against whom he’d made the wager, attempted to shame him into it, filming a spoof video at the House barbershop.