ABC News / Yahoo(WASHINGTON) — In Washington, even sports are political.
Should you need any proof, look no further than the NCAA March Madness tournament. Not only has President Obama made it a tradition to pick his brackets with ESPN, but this year, ABC News joined forces with ESPN to get an unofficial Republican response.
Former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan was among the Republicans who took part. The Wisconsin Republican picked his home state’s Badgers to go all the way in the tournament, with their final matchup predicted against Gonzaga University.
“I’m going with Wisconsin, I think Bo Ryan has got this team at a really good place,” Ryan told Power Players, putting his political capital behind the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach.
“We have depth; we got people coming off the bench who are sinking threes you know 10 seconds into the game, so I think we’ve got a deep team, a very well-coached team, and a team that is very gelled,” Ryan continued.
Though Ryan’s choice may be politically correct — and one he joked he has to make no matter how the team is playing — he said his confidence in the Badgers this year is “sincere” and goes well beyond politics.
“Honestly, we really have a decent chance at it,” Ryan said, also noting that he is particularly married to Wisconsin’s success in the tournament because of a major life event that coincided with the Badgers’ former NCAA successes.
“I got engaged at half-time the second to the last time we were in the final four, so Wisconsin making the tournament is something special in our family,” he said.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Andy Barr said he’s “striving for history” with his bet on the University of Kentucky Wildcats capturing the national championship. Like Ryan, Barr’s choice was politically safe, considering that the congressman hails from the same district as the university.
“We’re all united, Democrats and Republicans in 6th Congressional District for our love of college basketball,” Barr said. “This is an exciting time to be a wildcat, and we’re looking for the 9th national championship, 40 and 0, the pursuit of perfection, we’re going to do it.”
Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, for her part, will be in the unique position of cheering for two schools her district. But in the end, she is putting particular faith in one school: Gonzaga University.
“Gonzaga Bulldogs, here the number two seed, and the Eastern Washington University, definitely have to keep an eye on both of those teams,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I’m hopeful this is the year Gonzaga goes to the final four.”
If Ryan’s prediction of the final matchup between Wisconsin and Gonzaga were to hold up, it’s conceivable that he and McMorris Rodgers might exchange some friendly trash talk — something that Ryan said is common on the Hill during the NCAA tournament. “We all kind of text or call each other and then just trash talk a little bit,” he said.
“There are bets, my guess in Andy Barr … he and I will do a bet on the UK and Wisconsin would be my guess,” Ryan said.
And like all other workplaces across America that will struggle to keep their sports-loving employees properly employed throughout the whirlwind tournament, Ryan confirmed that Capitol Hill is no different than anywhere else.
“That’s what smartphones are for,” Ryan joked. “You can bring your iPad on the [House] floor, they let you do that now.”
Though Ryan isn’t holding his breath that all his bracket picks will be correct — pointing out that he only has a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of doing so — you can check out his bracket predictions in this episode of Power Players.
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