Romney pauses debate prep to watch staff vs. media football game

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—Mitt Romney emerged from a weekend of debate preparations on Sunday to take in a grudge match that had been in the works for weeks: a flag football game between his senior staff and the reporters who cover him.

Dressed in black shorts and a black t-shirt, the Republican presidential nominee made a brief appearance at the top of the game, which was held on the beach opposite the hotel where Romney has been holed up doing debate prep with his senior staff and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. The senator also hit the gridiron, briefly playing for the Romney staff team.

"Shake hands, shake hands," Romney told the teams' captains Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director who was heading up the staff team, and the New York Times' Ashley Parker, who represented the media.

He then officiated the game's coin toss—which went for the media.

'That's the last call you guys are getting," Romney joked.

Romney then called his staff to a quick huddle, dispensing some advice.

"Figure out which of their players are best and take them out early," Romney said, as his staff laughed. "Don't worry about injuries guys. This counts… Win!"

Standing along the sidelines, Romney cheered on his aides and ignored questions about Iran and the latest round of polls in the presidential race. Asked if he was ready for Monday's debate, Romney replied, "I'm ready for some football."

Soon the candidate was en route back to his hotel, narrowly missing his wife, Ann, who arrived a few minutes later  in the unofficial staff team uniform--a t-shirt that said, "I Built My Business"--and joined her husband's staff on the playing field.

After a few snaps, Ann Romney, standing in as the Romney team's quarterback, threw a touchdown—which briefly pushed her husband's staff into the lead. But it wasn't enough to put the Romney team over the edge. The game ended in a tie, 14-14.