TROT out a politician at a sporting event and the boos are likely to follow. Nevertheless, there are other, less abrasive ways for public servants to demonstrate they are fans, too. Take Gov. William Weld (R) of Massachusetts, who, while a squash-playing blueblood, has shown he's a regular guy through his interest in popular sports.
For example, he attended the press conference when Bill Parcells was named coach of pro football's New England Patriots last January. He kept legislative pressure on when efforts to build a new Boston Garden were foundering (it's now under construction), and has been vocal in pushing a stadium project that could muffle overtures from Hartford, Conn., directed at the Patriots. He was even spotted in the bleachers at a meaningless late-season Boston Red Sox game and holds season ticket to the Patriots - which he paid for and uses.
The capper may have come last month, however, when the governor announced that a third Boston Harbor tunnel, connecting Logan Airport with downtown, would bear the name of baseball's Ted Williams. Using Williams's name, instead of that of some long-forgotten governor or mayor, was a sure way to lift the choice above partisan politics. Touching other bases
* What hath corporate sponsorship wrought in the world of college football bowl games? The Outback Steakhouse Gator Bowl, the Carquest Bowl, the Weiser Lock Copper Bowl, and the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl, that's what. The IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl almost sounds like something that the quarterback would call in the huddle. Mercifully, for broadcasters, there are still some commercially unadorned identities out there - Rose Bowl, Peach Bowl, and the new Alamo Dome to name several.
* A couple of the nation's most prominent college basketball programs have wasted no time in baring their vulnerability. Top-ranked North Carolina, the defending national champion, lost in overtime to the University of Massachusetts in last week's preseason National Invitation Tournament semifinals. Meanwhile, 11th-ranked Indiana failed to score a basket in the final nine minutes of its shocking 75-71 opening-game loss to Butler University. The Hoosiers hadn't lost to Butler, an Indianapolis school that plays in IU's long shadow, since 1958. Coach Bob Knight will surely run his troops through the wringer this week in preparation to meet high-powered Kentucky on Saturday.
* The University of Wisconsin could clinch its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1963 this coming Sunday, but oddly, the Badgers' all-important game with Michigan State will be played in Tokyo. The Japanese have regularly hosted a late-season college game, but the American schedulemakers avoid shipping such a significant contest overseas. When the game was scheduled, however, no one anticipated that Wisconsin would be in the run for the Roses.
* Lineman Leon Lett could be forgiven a little hot-dogging late in last January's Super Bowl blowout, but fans of the Dallas Cowboys may have struck Leon's name from their Christmas card lists after his Thanksgiving Day blunder. To review: Lett scooped up at fumble in the Super Bowl and was en route to a 64-yard touchdown when Buffalo's Don Beebe stripped the ball from the prematurely celebrating Cowboy at the goal line. Last Thursday, Lett mistakenly tried to pounce on a blocked field goal in the last seconds of a snow-blown game against Miami in Dallas. This allowed the Dolphins to recover, giving a second chance to kicker Pete Stoyanovich, whose 41-yard attempt had just been snuffed out. Stoyanovich proceeded to kick a 19-yard field goal to give Miami a 16-14 win.
* It looks like undefeated Nebraska will play for a college football championship against either Florida State or West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. The Cornhuskers may have to overcome a mental block to secure the season-long No. 1 ranking, because their recent record in the Orange Bowl has not been good - 1-6 since 1979. Nebraska runs an option attack that can quickly collect rust.
* The Canadian Football League's Grey Cup championship game Sunday night was not exactly a thing of beauty. The Edmonton Eskimos took advantage of seven Winnipeg turnovers and booted six field goals in a 33-23 victory.