Cory Gardner figures that what he needs to know about big-league politics he learned as a fullback and middle linebacker for an eastern Colorado high school so small that the guys had to play both offense and defense.
“I used to play against a high school football team that always used to run the single wing. And eventually, other teams figured out that they ran the single wing. And so they prepared for it,” the two-term Republican congressman said as he made his way through a game-day crowd at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium this month. “The Democrats are stuck running the single wing.”
In Colorado, the Democratic formation has been working pretty well.

So goes the lede of Karen Tumulty's profile of Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner, who — like every candidate in American history — can't resist the tidiness of a folksy analogy, or the attractive pull of hometown nostalgia.

Likewise, Deadspin couldn't resist researching Gardner's football past, quickly determining that his credentials were wanting. The writer asked a bunch of old timers in Yuma, Colorado about the representative's high school football days, and no one could remember such a thing happening. Deadspin gleefully reported the fogginess surrounding Gardner's athletic prowess -- although they have since retracted their story.

The key sentence in the story, ignored in the first hour of the post's publication, was, "Pfalmer concedes that it's possible Gardner played freshman football, but if he did, Pfalmer doesn't remember him."

It turns out that this was indeed the extent of Gardner's career.

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple checked in on the status of Deadspin's post on Thursday morning.

Though Deadspin’s Gardner story appears to be false, it bears no correction or retraction, but rather an “update” notifying readers of the rather significant evidence against it. When asked whether the site has any further plans to address the discrepancies, Craggs responded, “For now, I guess, we’re going to sit here, eat some s—, and endure our Maoist struggle session in penitent silence. Our main source decided to unsay everything he’d said 24 hours earlier. What else can we do?”

They have published a post explaining this in further detail.

Gardner had played through sophomore year of high school, long enough to propel a lifetime of football analogies and Colorado glorifying.

When the Seahawks and the Broncos played in this year's Super Bowl, each member of the Washington and Colorado House delegations wagered one of their state's wares. Gardner was the most enthusiastic and daring participant, planning to send over some Rocky Mountain Oysters if the Broncos happened to win. Gardner loves taking about football everywhere. He will talk about it in committee hearings.

He will talk about it on the House floor, when bragging about his hometown.

He will talk about it when talking about how Congress is the worst.

However, the biggest problem with Deadspin's account of Gardner's football credentials is that it fails to mention the peak of the Senate candidate's football career — the time he spent caring for CAM the Ram when attending Colorado State University. The university's live mascot first made an appearance at a football game in 1946; the school is currently on its 24th ram, which needs to be cared for by 12 to 15 student volunteers. Gardner, a member of the university's FarmHouse Fraternity, was one of those volunteers. And yes, as the Deadspin story noted in its kicker, Gardner was a Democrat back in those days.

In 2007, the Rocky Mountain Collegian asked Gardner about his past as a ram handler. “We took CAM to a lot of different places,” he told the student newspaper. “California, Tennessee; we even took him into restaurants.”

Apparently, reporters have had just as much difficulty trying to get Gardner's campaign to confirm his football mascot-handling career in 2010 as they did this year with his high school football career. The Denver Westword tried to call up Gardner's office to get some answers, but they never returned the call.

I gave this third Gardner campaign worker an ultimatum. Either Gardner called me back within 24 hours or I'd be going public about his apparent shenanigans with a fluffy little friend.
"Sure, whatever" responded the woman. Clearly she, too, wasn't taking my threat seriously. Although now they'll all live to regret it, since nothing is going to stop me from shouting my discovery to the world:
Cory Gardner was a ram handler!

Gardner had also told the Collegian that the experience had been great. “Whenever I see CAM, it brings pride of green and gold. CAM has been there through thick and thin; he has been on the losing end and the winning end.”

What that chapter of his brush with football has to say about his upcoming election remains to be seen.

This post has been updated.