Mike Wise: Political Football

By Mike Wise
Friday, October 31, 2008

In the battleground state of Virginia last month, a man wearing a Barack Obama campaign pin was helping to register voters in the lobby of the Washington Redskins' Ashburn headquarters.

Until, that is, Coach Jim Zorn, who has ridden mountain bikes with the current leader of the free world and whose best friend is Steve Largent, a Hall of Fame wide receiver and former Republican congressman, kicked the man out.

"He had this big ol' button," Zorn said. "He said, 'I'll take my pin off.' I said, 'Forget it. You've already created the issue for me.' "

The pro football players and coaches who represent the nation's capital, men whose bipartisan dream is to play on Super Sunday, have for months been waging a civil debate over Super Tuesday.

They often talk taxes before trap blocks, discuss foreign policy and education between physical therapy and argue vehemently, sometimes in the most intimate of social environments.

"One time Leigh [Torrence] brought up some politics," began Todd Collins, the Redskins' backup quarterback, "and one of our guys finally said, 'Leigh, keep that stuff out of the showers.' "

Torrence, a Redskins cornerback who once interned on Capitol Hill for a Democratic congressman from Georgia, registered 16 Redskins players in Virginia, 14 of whom he said had never before cast a ballot.

Zorn had no problem with Torrence's political involvement. In fact, he allowed Torrence to continue registering players after dismissing the Obama supporter.

"Whatever party he was from didn't matter," Zorn said of the volunteer. "I'd love to have everybody exercise their vote. What happened was, the guy that was coming in was partial. It was not a nonpartisan deal."

Torrence said he hoped 100 percent of the locker room would make it to the polls next Tuesday.

Is it insane to think an NFL roster, this enclave off the Loudoun County Parkway, might decide the presidential race in Virginia?

"Fifty-three votes?" Torrence asked bemusedly. "It might be a reach, but that would be interesting."

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