Swann's long run

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It could be a long game with no gain for Lynn Swann.

Lynn Swann, the great wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and currently a network sports announcer, is running for governor in Pennsylvania. Swann, a Republican, probably thinks his big name in the sports world will help him through a contested GOP primary and then a tough general election with savvy Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

Swann may not know it, but politics can be meaner than beating a headhunting safety to a pass in the middle of the field.

Mr. Swann, there have been sports successes but a lot of losers in big-league politics.

Take three Republicans from Oklahoma:

l Steve Largent, a magnificent receiver who starred at the University of Tulsa and in the pro ranks, was elected to the House of Representatives but lost a governor's race.

l Long ago, the iconic coach at the University of Oklahoma, Bud Wilkinson, ran for the Senate and never made it.

l J. C. Watts, who made a name for himself as a quarterback at OU, was elected to Congress and retired.

Republican Jack Kemp, another quarterback of distinction in the college and pro ranks, won a House seat in Buffalo but lost a presidential bid. He didn't help Bob Dole as his running mate in 1996.

A possible winner all the way from the coaching ranks is Nebraska's legendary Tom Osborne, a GOP-er. He is giving up his House seat to run for governor this year.

Names from the past include Republican Bob Mathias, a football great from Stanford and a decathlon winner in the Olympics, who was elected to Congress but later lost in the post-Watergate election when the GOP took a collective bath.

Another winner-loser was Iowa Democrat John Culver, who won a House seat, then was elected to the Senate and sent home after one term.

Of course, former President Gerald Ford, a University of Michigan star at center, was a fine football player, but the voters rejected him for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Lyndon Johnson once ridiculed Ford as playing the game without his helmet. That was rich coming from LBJ, one of the most uncoordinated chief executives–along with Richard Nixon–in modern history.

Baseball stars have a mixed story, too. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, lost a governor's race before winning a Senate seat. Like Mathias, Rep. "Vinegar Bend" Mizell—a North Carolina Republican and previously a crafty pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals—was swept out after Watergate.

How about basketball? Bill Bradley, the Princeton and New York Knicks great, represented New Jersey in the Senate. But Bradley, a Democrat, was unable to wrest his party's presidential nomination from Al Gore in 2000.

Democrat Tom McMillen, a University of Maryland star and professional, was a Maryland representative but was redistricted out of Congress.

So the road to Harrisburg is hardly a cinch for Swann. In fact, "blue state" Pennsylvania may send him packing to the microphone in the press box.