Keeping Score

When Ray Martinez Runs For Mayor, You Can Bet He'll Win.
By Tom Danehy

BEING THE SPORTS guy at The Weekly has its benefits. Mostly they involve going to Wildcat games, even though the guys at UA Sports Information realize the chances of my doing any actual reporting are about as likely as Sylvester Stallone winning that long-coveted Best Actor Oscar.

Danehy (Speaking of which, do you realize how close he came to winning an Oscar for his original portrayal of Rocky? Who knew? Back then, we thought he was acting.)

Still, every now and then, I find myself envying my compadres over on the political side of The Weekly's editorial wing. There is A. Bradley Dongass III with his, uh, well, um...and Jeff Smith with his unmatched wordsmanship, Emil Franzi with his smoked-filled room experience, and Jim Nintzel with his numerous contacts with extraterrestrials. I've always admired their ability to understand and function in the real world, as well as that of politics.

So I set out to make a name for myself in this field, and now I think I've done so. I have a scoop that none of them has access to, one so profound and stunning they'll take notice of me now. Or at least they'll stop throwing things at me when I walk down the hall.

My political scoop consists of two words: Ray Martinez.

Remember that name, because he's going to be mayor of Tucson someday. And then governor. The wheels are in motion as we speak. He's got the ethnic name, the financial know-how and contacts up the yin-yang.

He's the proprietor of The Sports Place out at the intersection of Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon roads. But that's part of his master plan. He's making connections, wheeling and dealing, plotting his next move.

You say you don't recognize the name Ray Martinez? Does the phrase "When do you need those soccer shirts?" ring a bell? I thought it would.

See, Ray has made just about every soccer jersey, baseball cap, sports bag, and practice T-shirt in Tucson. If you have a kid, know a kid, or ever were a kid, you've probably seen his handiwork.

When it comes to sports stuff, he's dealt with just about everybody. And he has the records to prove it. Somewhere. Lord knows they're not on his desk, which is reserved for old chili dog wrappers.

And all those transactions are political money in the bank. Ray's got big plans, and the road to the statehouse and beyond is paved with sports equipment.

For years I've watched so-called political pundits sit around on TV and spout inane phrases like "spin control" and "sea changes." This year the morons actually hit on something with their talk about "soccer moms." Like it or not, the soccer mom is everywhere and her influence is growing daily.

Every kid in America plays soccer at one time or another. Heck, even my kids played soccer until they were old enough to tell me they thought it sucked.

And if the soccer mom is the key to the future of politics, then Ray Martinez's political future is bright, indeed. Ray has made about 10 million soccer jerseys in the past year. And every single buyer got a deal on them.

This is how it works. They call up Ray and tell him they need 12 soccer jerseys in sizes ranging from small all the way up to medium. Then they need an adult large for the Team Mom and a double-XL for the coach, whose experience in soccer is limited to cursing at the TV screen whenever it comes on ESPN SportsCenter.

Ray takes the call and says, "When do you need those soccer shirts?" They give him an impossible deadline, he says okay, and that's it. A few days later, they walk in to pick up the jerseys. Ray picks a number out of thin air--generally below wholesale--and the deal is done. The soccer mom walks out a happy customer and a political ally for life.

I read a short story once by Robert Bloch (Psycho) about a sewing circle of little old ladies. They'd recruit new members, who'd go to other towns and start branch sewing circles. People thought it was kind of cute, until someone figured out their numbers were growing geometrically and would include everyone in the world within a few months.

Ray must've read the same story because his strategy is both simple and insidious.

Ray's got the "soccer mom" vote wrapped up. The only way he could have more influence is if he sold minivans on the side.

He does have a few drawbacks. He's only thirty-something, so he doesn't share some of the experiences of the huge Baby Boomer bloc. Mention "gas line" to him and he thinks it's what forms by the bathroom at Famous Sam's on free chimichanga night.

His gaps are filled in by his political cohort, Dan Hogan. Dan has this easygoing charm and a huge store of sports trivia and political dirty tricks. When Ray was still running for class president at Sahuaro High back in the '70s, Dan was making soccer jerseys for John Ehrlichman's kids.

Together they're a formidable team. I used to think they were just a couple of nice guys who'd shoot the breeze when I'd go in to buy stuff. Now I know better.

I asked Ray about this and he denies it. He recently moved from his house near Ina and Shannon to one near his store. He said it was just for convenience, but I think it was so he could move from the county into the city to establish residence. He could have stayed where he was and run for mayor of Marana, but he would have had to do so on a "No-Cattle-Drives-Down-Main-Street" platform. Too small-time. He's aiming high.

After a couple terms as mayor and then one as governor, and if soccer ever becomes as popular as people have been warning us it would for the past 25 years, who knows? I just hope he remembers those of us who used to pay retail. TW

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