Ex-NFLer Gibbs: Hail to John McCain

The longtime coach of the Washington Redskins will appear at the Republican convention Thursday night, while his former team kicks off the football season

Published September 4, 2008 7:33PM (EDT)

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The NFL's 2008-09 season kicks off Thursday night, a few hours before John McCain delivers his prime-time acceptance speech at the Republican convention. The campaign was getting nervous about game coverage knocking McCain off the air on NBC affiliates around the country. But now it looks like it has decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, a member of the football Hall of Fame, will address the convention Thursday night -- possibly while his former team is playing the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. A Republican source just confirmed to Salon Mark Halperin's report that Gibbs would show up in St. Paul, though it sounds like the timing is still up in the air.

As a third-generation D.C. native and a lifelong Redskins fan, this means two worlds will be colliding while I cover tonight's convention program. I was planning to keep one eye on the game thanks to NBC's new streaming video feed for NFL coverage, but I didn't expect the game to suddenly seem relevant to the convention. Gibbs has never been shy about his fundamentalist Christian beliefs, in either his football career or his second career as a NASCAR owner. (Evidently that game last year where Gibbs might have cost the team a win by stupidly calling consecutive timeouts turned out that way because of God's will, which I suspect wasn't as much consolation to most fans as it was to Gibbs.) But he'd never been active in politics before, at least not that I can remember; RFK Stadium, when I was growing up, and now FedEx Field, always seemed like bipartisan places even as political Washington grew increasingly polarized.

Especially during a hectic campaign season, it's nice to keep sports separate from politics (even if the Redskins have traditionally been an unusually good, if completely coincidental, predictor of election results in the past). Apparently that's all in the past. Gibbs might not make McCain supporters out of every Redskins fan in the country tonight (or at least, not this guy) -- but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Obama voters suddenly discover a newfound affection for the Giants.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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