Sen. John McCain took to the floor of the U.S. Senate Monday afternoon to offer a not-so-heartfelt tribute to the Carolina Panthers.
The veteran Republican, an Arizona Cardinals fan, was paying off a bet to GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina over their teams’ showdown in the NFC championship game, which the Panthers won handily to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
“He (McCain) gave a concession speech,” Tillis said later.
He said he bought McCain a black-and-blue Panthers tie to wear during his floor appearance.
Appearing embarrassed to be wearing a tie with the Panthers logo on it, McCain recounted how Carolina beat his beloved Cardinals.
“Tillis and I agreed to a friendly, or not-so-friendly wager on the NFC Championship,” McCain told colleagues. “Unfortunately, even tragically, this is what brings me before you today.”
“It is with all sincerity that I wish the Carolina Panthers luck in their game against the Denver Broncos,” McCain added.
But the senator went on to heap praise on the Cardinals, including their owner, coach and “the legendary Larry Fitzgerald,” the team’s star receiver.
In wishing the Panthers luck, he mispronounced the name of Carolina’s head coach when he congratulated “Ron Rivers. I’m sorry, I mean Ron Rivera.”
“Good luck on Sunday,” McCain said of the Panthers. “And to my beloved Cardinals, thanks for an exciting season.”
Tillis, who has been a PSL owner for 12 years and is going to the Super Bowl, called it “awesome” that McCain was willing to trudge to the Senate floor to wallow in the Panthers’ glory.
“I like doing fun things,” Tillis said with a wry grin. “You know, public acts of humiliation.”
He said Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado apparently had a similar thought heading into the Super Bowl. An aide to Gardner proposed that if the Denver Broncos beat Carolina, Tillis would have to eat a helping of Rocky Mountain Oysters.
He said his aide replied, “That’s the thing. He (Tillis) actually likes them.”
Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill