Posted: Nov. 29, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Football is the most straightforward of sports. Crash, smash, score. Or not.

There is no irony in football. There is irony in politics, extreme irony. Otherwise, how could a presidential election have hinged on the hieroglyphic reading of hanging chad?

This weekend politics in all its irony will be horning in on football. Send the University of Delaware team to Iowa, and what pops out is Joe Biden.

The UD is Biden's alma mater, class of '65. Iowa is Disneyland for politicians.

There could be no sweeter meeting for Biden than the UD playing the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday in the NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals in Iowa, about a month before the Iowa caucuses open up the presidential nominating season on Jan. 3.

Of all the presidential candidates, Biden's fellow Democrats or the Republicans, the six-term senator from Delaware is the only one who can lay claim to the game. With his poll numbers as modest as they are in Iowa, he is taking what he can get.

Biden had an appearance Tuesday at the Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls. In an account by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, he took a line he often uses quite seriously -- about reasons for losing elections -- and turned it into a jest about his allegiance to the UD in the game.

"Unlike other presidential candidates, I have no trouble knowing who I'm for. Some things are worth losing elections over," Biden joked.

Unless schedules change, Biden will be the lone member of Delaware officialdom amid all the Iowans at the game. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is not going. Nor are Sen. Tom Carper or Rep. Mike Castle or other statewide officeholders. Biden's son-the-attorney-general has National Guard duty, but he will be rooting for the Fightin' Blue Hens against top-seeded Northern Iowa and for his outnumbered father.

"I think it's going to be the first of two wins for Delaware. First football, then doing well in the caucuses. It will not be the first time we've come from behind," Beau Biden quipped.

When the first round of playoffs was held last week, politically speaking Joe Biden could not lose. Either the UD or Delaware State University would advance from one game, and either Northern Iowa or the University of New Hampshire from the other. If the next stop did not include a team from the state with the first presidential caucuses, it would have a team from the state with the first presidential primary.

Political irony had its day. With those four teams, it was win-win-win-win for Biden. The bracket-makers could not have been better to him if he had bribed them.

Still, UD-Northern Iowa is a second-tier contest, and Biden is a second-tier candidate. When John Kerry was running for president, he got to watch his hometown Boston Red Sox in a baseball game with the New York Yankees. Kerry got national exposure out of it.

What Biden will get out of the football game is no doubt more of the usual -- national neglect.