Which governor race was called “Steelers vs. Eagles”?
Though facing long odds of victory against a former friend, one Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer was the Republican candidate for the 2006 governor of Pennsylvania and had his Hall of Fame teammate stump for his opponent.
Though teammates on the Steel Curtain Pittsburgh Steelers teams that dominated the 1970s, Lynn Swann and Franco Harris are not on the same team when it comes to politics. Also working against Swann’s political aspirations was his Hall of Fame career with the Steelers.
Described by political journalists as a “Steelers vs. Eagles” election campaign, Swann ran for governor against incumbent Ed Rendell, an Eagles season ticket holder for more than 30 years. Rendell was such a well-liked fan of the Eagles that he had his own sports TV show that aired locally after games. Tipping the scales for Philadelphia’s Rendell was his “ace in the hole” – Franco Harris, who lobbied on behalf of the Eagles fan.
“I feel there needs to be a change in the direction from where our national administration has taken us and where the Republicans in the state government want to take us,” Harris said at the time.
Though Swann didn’t take any swipes at his former teammate, Swann said that Rendell needed the help of popular people like Harris in the western part of the state. Rendell may not have needed the help, at least not financially. His campaign raised more than $17 million, nearly five times the amount that Swann’s Team 88 raised at approximately $3.3 million.
Rendell was re-elected as governor, earning nearly 1 million more votes than Swann, who only got 40 percent of the voters (2.43 million to 1.59 million).
In 2002, Swann was named the chairman of the President’s Council of Youth Fitness, where he served until 2005. In 2016, Swann returned to his alma mater, the University of Southern California, to become the school’s eighth athletic director in history, following the tenure of another former USC and NFL football player, Pay Haden.
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