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Mitt Romney loves sport

Romney taunted NBA star Russell Westbrook because he genuinely enjoys sport.

Mitt Romney, possibly sincere Utah Jazz fan.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

It’s easy to make fun of Mitt Romney. He’s goofy and stilted. You might not like his politics. He’s the perfect target.

So it was no surprise that when a television camera caught Romney at the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA playoff game on Monday night somewhat awkwardly taunting Thunder star Russell Westbrook, people had jokes.

Look, I get it. It’s funny. The extent of Romney’s trash talk seems to be emphatically repeating “that’s four” — Westbrook had just picked up his fourth foul in the first half, and it takes six to foul out of an NBA game. Not good for the Thunder in a must-win playoff game.

I would argue it’s a credit to Mitt that he knew how important that fourth foul was!

You cannot, of course, ignore Romney appearing so publicly at an important game for Utah’s only major professional sports franchise while he gears up for a US Senate race there. (We don’t need to dwell on the basketball-jersey-over-button-down-dress-shirt look either.)

Romney almost got credit for wearing a No. 5 jersey — that is former Jazz guard Rodney Hood’s number, and Hood was traded away from the team a few months ago. It would suggest Romney had taken a real interest in the Jazz! But that was not the case, as the folks at SB Nation have noted.

(Update: It appears Romney was wearing the No. 5 jersey to help promote cancer research, which is great!)

But I came here not to bury Mitt Romney but to praise him. He was president and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He was aware in 2012 that the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox had won Super Bowls and a World Series while he was the governor of Massachusetts. He knows that 7-foot-tall human beings should probably be playing basketball. His wife, Ann, is a noted equestrian.

Sure, he might, as Mother Jones’s Tim Murphy delightfully chronicled, have the odd habit of talking about “sport” instead of “sports” like the rest of us. But that’s just part of his charm. There is plenty of proof that Mitt Romney genuinely enjoys sports — he even reportedly had an interest in buying a stake in the New York Yankees.

Romney deeply reveres capitalism and competition. It makes perfect sense that he would also enjoy athletic contests.

The only crime here, if you ask me, is that Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have much sports loyalty.

Mitt Romney is in the house. #celtics #iamaceltic

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