Minn. voters pinned down all the issues


November 06, 1998

West Virginia, you're off the hook. You too, Arkansas and Mississippi.

You've been replaced, at least for now, as the most-joked-about state in the U.S.

America's newest laughing stock is Minnesota, where former pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura will be the next governor.

The election was Tuesday, and this is Friday already, so by now Letterman and Leno and every other newspaper columnist on Earth have used up all the best jokes. "Talk about your New World Order," and stuff like that.

So there will be no Minnesota-bashing here.

I like the Land of a Thousand Lakes. It's a center of medical and scientific research. Only two months ago, for instance, the cryogenically preserved body of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham was dug out of a glacier near Minneapolis, thawed out and led the Vikings to a 7-0 start.

Two of the five greatest TV shows in history, "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Bullwinkle," were set in Minnesota, as was the 1,319th greatest TV show in history, "Coach."


There's even one great film about Minnesota, but it was named "Fargo," after the city in neighboring North Dakota. If they'd called it "Brainerd," nobody would have gone to see it.

But Ventura's election is weirder than anything you'd ever find in a Coen brothers' screenplay.

While most normal Minnesotans were hanging out at the Mall of America, listening to Garrison Keillor or moving into their ice-fishing shacks for the winter, enough disgruntled voters in mukluks and "Stone Cold" T-shirts showed up at the polls to give the Reform Party candidate one of the greatest upsets since Temple beat Virginia Tech.

(Granted, the Temple-Tech game was only three weeks ago, but our attention spans are getting shorter all the time. Now where was I? Oh, yeah, Ventura.)

Maybe the idea of a pro wrestler as governor isn't as wack as it first appears. The line dividing big-time politics from big-time sports and entertainment becomes more blurred every day.

Sit through any episode of "The McLaughlin Group" or that never-ending yellfest on MSNBC hosted by that geeky curly-haired guy with glasses, and it sounds pretty much like any pre-match, post-match or between-match primal scream interview on "Raw" or "Nitro" - except the wrestlers dress a little better.

Now that pro wrestling admits to being "entertainment" rather than "sport," Ventura joins Ronald "The Gipper" Reagan in the pantheon of politicians who first gained fame as an entertainer playing the part of an athlete.

It's fashionable these days to moan about voter apathy and wonder about the fate of our democracy. In Washington County, the turnout Tuesday was around 50 percent of eligible voters, which is miserable by local standards but well above the national figure of 36 or 37 percent.

Ventura's voter base was males age 18 to 45 - in other words, your basic WCW crowd. Many of them, turned off by the usual pencil-necked geeks running for office, were inspired by Ventura's candidacy to vote for the first time.

Maybe Minnesota is on to something here. You want to get more people to the polls, give them something they really care about.

Go ahead and elect your presidents and Congresspeople and your county commissioners and school board members. But at the bottom of the ballot, add some real hot-button issues such as these:

Jeff Gordon vs. Rusty Wallace (had this issue alone been on the ballot in Washington County this year, there would still be a line around the polling places).

Boxers vs. briefs (Bill Clinton, a politician ahead of his time, addressed this issue in 1992).

Ginger vs. Mary Ann.

"Tastes great" vs. "Less filling."

Russell vs. Chamberlain.

Green vs. Frerotte ("none of the above" would probably win).

Graphite vs. steel shafts.

Butter vs. margarine.

King Kong vs. Godzilla.

Sean Connery vs. Roger Moore vs. Pierce Brosnan.

Stones vs. Beatles.

Metal vs. rap.

Automatic vs. stick.

Roll-on vs. stick.

Gas chamber vs. lethal injection.

You'd get 100 percent voter turnout every time. You betcha.

On with the predictions (last week: 26-2, .929; season: 173-52, .769):


Tonight's games

Greenbrier East 26, Martinsburg 20 - Bulldogs' playoff drive gets snagged in the Greenbrier.

West Perry 38, James Buchanan 13 - What happened to Luke Perry after he left "90210?"

Boonsboro 27, Smithsburg 14 - Smithsburg can't quite smite its arch-rival.

Berkeley Springs 39, Hancock 30 - This one could resemble street ball, make that U.S. 522 ball.

North Hagerstown 20, South Hagerstown 19 - Haven't those two guys pictured in the Hubs and Rebels uniforms on the front page Tuesday used up their eligibility?

Williamsport 24, Francis Scott Key 14 - The biggest crowd in FSK history might have been the time "Key" was misspelled "Keg" in the area schedule.

Brunswick 28, Catoctin 22 - Railroaders stay on schedule, but barely.

Middletown 38, Walkersville 14 - It's 10-0 clock at Knight.

Musselman 21, Hedgesville 14 - Eagles put the biggest scare into the Applemen since Alar.

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