A Brief History of Politicians Betting on Sports with Food

From left to right: © Tina Rupp; © Getty Images; © Quentin Bacon

By Justine Sterling Posted October 29, 2015

Some of us at Food & Wine aren’t the biggest sports fans (though we all get excited for a really great game day spread). But there is one sports tradition that we can get behind: politicians betting on big games with food.

Recently, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jay Nixon of Missouri announced their 2015 World Series wager: If the Mets win, Nixon will send Cuomo ribs from Kansas City’s Gates BBQ; if the Royals win, Cuomo will send Nixon a selection of New York specialties like bagels from Jrs Bagel Factory in Queens, wing sauce from Buffalo’s Anchor Bar, and a few bottles of local craft spirits and beers, like Hudson Maple Cask Rye and Southern Tier’s Pumking. It’s the latest in a short but interesting history of politicians betting on sports with food.

While we can’t pinpoint the first-ever food-based sports bet between politicians, we do know that, according to the New York Times, the tradition really started to gain in popularity and coverage during the 1990s. Here, some of the more notable food bets made by politicians over the years.

2014 Stanley Cup
New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings
This year’s World Series isn’t the first time Cuomo has wagered Anchor Bar’s wing sauce. Last year, he bet the sauce along with some other foods that the Rangers would win the Stanley Cup. California Governor Jerry Brown retaliated by betting lightly salted, hockey-puck-esque organic brown rice cakes.

2010 NFC Championship
New Orleans Saints vs. Minnestoa Vikings
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota vowed to cook gumbo and deliver it to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana if the Saints won—while wearing a Drew Brees jersey, no less. If the Vikings won, Landrieu promised to cook a wild rice casserole and deliver it to Klobuchar’s office in a Brett Favre jersey.

2010 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
In a seafood battle to the death, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley wagered crab cakes against Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s lobsters. The Ravens won and, just to make sure he got his prize, O’Malley recorded a YouTube video demanding that Deval “send down the lob-stah.”

2009 World Series
New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Two local cheese specialties went head-to-head in this series. If the Phillies won, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand pledged to send cheesecakes. If the Yankees won, Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter would offer up cheesesteaks.

2008 Stanley Cup
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick offered to send over Motor City specialties like Little Cesar’s Pizza Kits and Faygo Pop. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, in return, said he would send Primanti Brothers sandwiches (famed for containing french fries), Heinz ketchup and an octopus.

1999 Super Bowl
Atlanta Falcons vs. Denver Broncos
Greeley, Colorado Mayor Vern Nelson had faith in his Broncos. He wagered six disposable cameras, ten T-bone steaks and five pounds of Rocky Mountain oysters (bull testicles) against Suwannee, Georgia Mayor Chris Yoder’s seven dozen custom golf balls.

1997 American League Division Series
Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees
When the Yankees lost to the Indians in an AL Division Series game, former NYC Mayor Giuliani sent Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White a striped bass he pretended to fish out of the East River along with a case of Brooklyn Lager. (In reality, the fish was sourced from Long Island.)

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