As a general rule, sports fans do not like it when politics intersects with their games. If I am a scientist and you believe dinosaurs and humans used to hang out together, but we are both fans of the Jets, our differences will not matter. Which is why it’s always a shaky proposition for any politician to make an appearance at a sporting event. When Sarah Palin showed up to drop the first puck Saturday before the Rangers-Flyers game in Philadelphia, her very presence probably reminded fans of the economic crisis, or attack ads, or any number of things that they went to this hockey game to escape from. So she was booed. Partisans may make something out of this, but the audience just wanted to watch their game in peace. Plus, as we pointed out before, they’re from Philadelphia — they boo everything.
All told, Palin didn’t get it too badly. Dick Cheney suffered much worse when he emerged from his underground lair to throw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. Booing politicians is a bipartisan endeavor: Dubya got it, Bill Clinton got it, and, even though he’s a die-hard White Sox fan and even introduced legislation congratulating them on their World Series win, Barack Obama got some boos when he threw out the first pitch of Game Two of the 2005 World Series. And John McCain went through the same thing four years earlier.
Perhaps politicians should look to the past. In the days before JumboTrons, they threw out the first pitch from the stands. (See this photo of President Nixon opening the 1969 baseball season.) Bill Clinton was actually the first president to throw from the mound. That’s now commonplace. For the sake of everyone, maybe it shouldn’t be.