A few days before the Dec. 13 Senate special election in Alabama, an ad from a progressive group appeared that showed voters how to write in a candidate other than Roy Moore or Doug Jones.
The suggested name to scribble down: Nick Saban.
Alabamians did it, too. Saban ended up with at least 421 votes in a race decided by 21,924. (We're using the phrase "at least" because the elections report is 430 pages, many of which are handwritten and hard to read, making exact totals nearly impossible to tally). The Tide coach, whose team takes on Georgia on Jan. 8 (8 p.m., ESPN/ESPN App) in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T, ultimately had no impact on the race, but his total led all sports figures in the state of Alabama. Saban even edged current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (415 votes). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of many public figures who proposed Sessions as a strong write-in candidate in Alabama.
Saban wasn't the only sports figure to pick up some unexpected ballot love. After 155 public records requests, more than 2,000 pages of voting results and multiple spellchecks of the name Kristaps Porzingis, here are the four biggest elections of 2017 -- the races for senator in Alabama, mayor in New York and governor in New Jersey and Virginia -- in which athletes and coaches rocked the vote.
OK, maybe "rocked the vote" is a slight overstatement ...
Former Attorney General Luther Strange, who lost to Roy Moore in the Republican primary, racked up the most votes of any write-in candidate, with 7,894. Saban ranked highest among sports figures, well ahead of Charles Barkley, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and current Tigers coach Gus Malzahn. Then the results got a little wackier, with even Saban's wife, Terry, and his starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts, grabbing one vote apiece.
At least a few voters seem to be rooting for Bama to get rolled in the national title game: Former Crimson Tide assistant Kirby Smart, now head coach at Georgia, netted one vote each in Baldwin and Jefferson counties. Of course, that just put Smart in a tie with the fourth figure who'll have a rooting interest in the CFP championship -- Alabama's costumed elephant mascot, Big Al.
And what's with Cam Ward getting nine votes? It's entirely possible that those nine voters were fans of Republican state Sen. Cam Ward, who has served in the Legislature since 2010. But for this exercise, we chose to believe that Alabama is home to a small band of die-hard Carolina Hurricanes fans.
NEW YORK CITY
Think Aaron Judge made a bit of an impact in NYC this year? The Yankees' rookie slugger led all sports figures in votes ... sort of. If New Yorkers had gotten the spelling of Kristaps Porzingis' name right -- there were two votes for various misspellings -- he would have edged Judge 11-10.
Those two athletes edged other celebrities such as Howard Stern (five votes), Beyonce Knowles (four votes), Tony Stark (two votes), Ken Bone (one vote), Larry David (one vote), Captain Crunch (one vote), Bart Simpson (one vote), Lord Yoda (one vote), Obi-Wan Kenobi (one vote) and Wonder Woman (one vote). And if you've ever wondered whom New Yorkers would choose for mayor between Derek Jeter and Stone Cold Steve Austin, it's Jeter ... by a closer-than-expected 2-1 margin.
A special congrats to Mickey Mouse, whose 15 votes for New York City mayor were more than those of Andrew Cuomo (six votes) and Anthony Weiner (eight votes) combined.
In November, New Jersey Democratic candidate Philip Murphy defeated Republican Kim Guadagno by about 300,000 votes to replace departing governor Chris Christie.
But like the voters in Alabama and New York City, some in the Garden State electorate reached to the sports world for write-in candidates. Kobe Bryant and Mark Cuban both netted votes, as did Tim Tebow and Jeff Jarrett (for purposes of this story, we're going to hope it was a vote for the four-time WCW heavyweight champ, as opposed to some other guy named Jeff Jarrett).
The king of the New Jersey jock vote? Carson Wentz, who earned a single vote in four different counties. By comparison, Bruce Springsteen picked up five write-in votes.
Based on 133 public records requests and our sifting through hundreds of pages of election documents from the 69 counties that responded, well, Virginians apparently don't see many athletes as being fit for the governorship. No sports figure grabbed even two votes, though it's worth noting that Old Dominion voters seem to be following the NHL pretty closely. We flipped a coin between "some random guy named Adam Jones" and "the Orioles outfielder" and decided that a proud Orioles fan must have penciled in the outfielder's name.