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Feature Story September 18, 2003
 
Party Players
 
Page 2 of 3
 
The proudly anti-social Union of Right Forces was the only party which flatly refused to choose a sports figure from the NFL, claiming that "the sport encourages Soviet-era reliance on sheer size and power, and places the interest of the group or 'team' above that of the individual." Instead the SPS insisted on selecting an ikon from the sport designed for the individual, her needs, her endorsements, her tantrums: women's tennis. From the start, Kournikova was only candidate for Gaidar's Shock Therapists. Like them, she looks good on Western TV no matter how many times she blows the match. Like Nemtsov, she is the West's perennial favorite because of her good looks, and not because of her success on the court. And like all the SPS leadership, from Chubais to Kirienko to Nemtsov, Anna Kournikova's become enormously wealthy, wealthier than her betters, even though she has never panned out. No matter what she does on the court, she knows that so long as she looks good, the West will always pay up. "We like the message Anna represents, particularly to the West," says Nemtsov. "Even in athletics, talent can be overcome by choosing the right outfit and shampoos, and a well-managed ass."

Party: Party of Life

Player: Lawrence Taylor

They're the Party of Life -- sure, unless you get in their way. Then it's "turn out the lights, the party's over" as these All-Madden enforcers do their worst. There's a reason sarcastic opponents call them "The Lifers": the Party's leader is Federation Upper House of Parliament Speaker Mironov, a heavy hitter fronting the dungeon wing of Lubyanka "where nobody can hear you scream, or would admit it if they could." The Lifers have proved they can shut anybody down: they drove the Bald Man right out of Russia and shut down big-talking Yukos QB Khodorkovskii for a net loss.

But can they make voters love them -- without a rubber hose and a soundproof room, that is? They hope that with Taylor fronting for them, they can. Taylor fits in because he got exactly the sort of makeover the Lifers want: starting out as the NFL's scariest stopper, he underwent PR surgery after numerous run-ins with both NFL officials and The Law, terrorizing anyone within a 100-mile radius, and emerged as a smiling, touch-football figure who became America's best friend. Taylor's smile on Mironov's face -- is it a winning combination? The Lifers hope so. And now that they've paid him, Taylor better hope so too.

Party: Liberal Russia

Player: Brian Bosworth

Berezovskii, a legendary owner, started the team but could never seem to give it his magic touch. The Liberal Russia founders started out small and kept dividing like a backfield of microbes. All the money Berezovskii threw into team development went into the pockets of a horde of assistant coaches, who started having their rivals hit in a series of spectacular podezed sacks.

Now Berezovskii has drafted Brian Bosworth as the new golden poster boy of the party. Experts agree Bosworth fits the party -- all too well. Like the Liberals, Bosworth was all overpaid promise and no return. His most famous play came in a Monday night game when he hit Bo Jackson on the five-yard line, and was pushed to the back of the end zone while America watched. After that, Bosworth went into action movies where he could script the outcome.

Can a has-been action star/NFL rookie blowhard fire up a team of badly-shot-up prima donnas and under-achievers? Most experts think Bosworth's debut in Russian politics will end pretty much the way his one-on-one with Bo did: a big-budget flop.

Interesting note: sources said that up to the last minute, former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar was in negotiations with Berezovskii to be Liberal Russia's mascot. Both Kosar and Berezovskii are converted Jews, but in the end, Bosworth asked for far more money and promised a spectacular flop, which swayed Berezovskii and the remnants of his faction of Liberal Russia.

Party: KPRF

Player: George Blanda


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