Posted: Dec. 14, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Inside the Carper family, the University of Delaware's championship football game Friday evening against Appalachian State University is personal.

Tom, as a Democratic senator from Delaware and especially as an ex-governor, could be counted on to be loyal to the university in Newark even if he had not gotten an MBA there -- which he did.

Martha, as a former first lady who was a DuPont Co. executive, seems to come with similar credentials, but this is one of those cases of being wary of first impressions. Martha is a graduate of Appalachian State.

Not only that, she actually grew up on the campus in Boone, N.C. -- in faculty housing, no less, during some of the 40 years her father taught physics and math there.

"The past week in the Carper household has been war," Tom Carper quipped. "I don't know what the odds are that the two teams vying for the championship would be our two alma maters, but they have to be long odds."

Tom will not be attending the game in Chattanooga, but Martha is. Tom is in Washington for a Senate session and hopes to make it back home in time for "Toys for Tots," his customary holiday event with the Marines. (It comes with a tie-in to the University of Delaware, because it is being held this evening at Arsht Hall on the Wilmington campus.)

In fact, among the top state officials only Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is scheduled to be at the game between the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens and the Appalachian State Mountaineers.

Joe Biden has the Senate session and his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to keep him away, even though he is a UD grad. He tried to get to the game against the University of Northern Iowa, since he was going to be in the state, anyway, to campaign, but a snowstorm kept him away.

Mike Castle, a Republican ex-governor, expected his work in the House of Representatives to take him to Washington. The session was canceled, but too late for him to arrange to go to the game without pulling rank to bump somebody else out of one of the tickets, as prized and scarce as they are. Not his style.

Left to uphold the honor of the state, Minner accepted a bet with North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, a fellow Democrat.

She put up pizza from Grotto, root beer from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and Nic-o-boli, a variation of stromboli, from Nicola Pizza. He wagered eastern and western North Carolina barbecue and Cheerwine, whatever that is. Minner is a teetotaler, and her office described the drink as a specialty cherry soda.

Back to Martha Carper. Her plans are to connect with Johnny and Kay Stacy, her brother and sister-in-law who still live in Boone, and attend the game. Johnny, by the way, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina.

"She got a seat on the Delaware side, but who knows where her heart will be," Tom Carper said.

Tom is rooting for the outcome to resemble his trips to visit Martha's family in Boone when he goes out for a run. "For years I've run circles around Appalachian State, and my hope is that tonight the Blue Hens do the same," he said.