Kemp Fades, He Fires. . .
On a slow Sunday morning in the newsroom, the death of Jack Kemp reminded my Post colleague Paul Duggan of covering the old Buffalo Bills quarterback and former congressman in his futile bid for the vice-presidency in 1996, on the Republican ticket headed by Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kans). Duggan, who now covers cops for The Post, remembered how the Kemp media contingent on the campaign plane usually included just a few reporters -- Duggan for The Post, a New York Times reporter, a Wall Street Journal reporter, maybe a few others. Big-name reporters would hop aboard every now and then just to make sure Kemp was still alive and kicking as he traipsed about the country. With Dole going nowhere in his effort to thwart Bill Clinton's re-election bid, the Kemp campaign was not exactly the white-hot center of American politics.
What Duggan remembers is how the old quarterback -- 61 at the time -- could still throw a football. Part of his campaign schtick was to pick out a member of the audience, maybe a high-school athlete, and throw a pass to him -- on a line, tightly spiraled, with plenty of zip on the ball. Had the ball hit somebody in the audience or had the kid missed it and got smacked in the face, it would have hurt.
Duggan also wrote back then about how old # 15 often told audiences that in his 13 years of pro ball, "I broke both ankles, both shoulders, my right knee, my right passing hand and had 11 concussions." Whether that gridiron-combat litany -- particularly the last item -- was supposed to reassure voters about his fitness for office, Duggan couldn't say. He did say that Kemp was a nice guy, fun to be around.
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