Menino’s Greatest Feat: He Can’t Talk About Sports

It takes a lot to remain this popular when you can't name most of our team's players.

On this first of many days in which we reflect on Mayor Tom Menino’s tenure, let’s note what might be the greatest (certainly the funniest) of his feats. As Ian Crouch writes in The New Yorker, “among his many accomplishments, perhaps his most singular has been maintaining power and popularity in a sports-crazed city while displaying a profound, and often comical, ignorance about its sports teams and most popular players.” That’s a trick Martha Coakley wishes she could have pulled off, and it’s even more impressive given he oversaw our teams as they won an insane number of national championships.

What’s amazing to watch is how Menino’s reputation for malapropisms went from embarrassing to something that almost … makes him stronger. Just look at how he owned up to messing up Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo’s names on his Twitter feed:

At this point, he seems to treat his own embarrassment as something we’ve come to expect … even look forward to. It’s like after all these years, the fact that he’s still even trying earns him points.

Of course, it’s not endearing to everyone. Detractors trot out each of these instances every time they want to take a shot at him, but we honestly don’t mean to bring them up today in that spirit. We don’t officially elect politicians to follow our sports teams for us, but for some reason, we expect them to do it in the course of their duties anyway. It’s actually a tribute to Menino’s strange abilities that in a town like Boston, he can refer to Vince Wilfork as “Wilcock” and still leave office with a 74 percent approval rating.

Lest you forget them, our five favorites are:

What Menino said: While congratulating the Boston Bruins on their season, he called them, “Great ballplayers on the ice and great ballplayers off the ice.”

But… but? That last half might be true. But on the ice, the Bruins, like most hockey teams, play with a decidedly non-spherical puck.

What Menino said: In 2010, he said, “Boston has an amazing set of remarkable athletes whose actions in the moment have become ionic [sic] in sports. Havlicek stole the ball. Fisk waved the ball fair. Flutie launched the Hail Mary pass. Varitek split the uprights.”

Come again? Menino mixed up Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek with Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, whose last minute field goals propelled the Patriots to more than one Superbowl win.

What Menino said: “We have Tom Brady here. He’s been our point person all season long. And Stevan Ridley, he’s been another great guy. And Wilcock.” He continued, “We have it all. Hernandez is going to do a great job. He’ll step in for Gonk because Gonk’s hurt.”

Wait what? That’s Vince Wilfork and Rob Gronkowski, or, “The Gronk.” Isn’t it just like a Boston mayor to drop the “r”?

What Menino said: Of the Boston Celtics in 2011, he says “There’s a lot of heart in this team, let me just tell you. KJ is great but Hondo is really the inspiration. Hondo drives that team.”

Uhh…? That’d be Kevin Garnett, or KG, and Rajon Rondo. Hondo, also known as John Havlicek, retired from the Celtics in 1978. Menino hasn’t been in office that long.

What Meninio said: Speaking of the 2004 Red Sox, “2004 coming in here when Davy Roberts stole second base, Mueller hit the double, got him in, then Ortiz won the game. There’s so many. Jim Lomberg had that great year he had.”

Who? Jim Lonborg played for the Red Sox in 1967.