“Every campaign is either a tragedy or a comedy, but Carol’s campaign is surreal. She’s by far the best choice among the three candidates, but it’s going to take a miracle for her to win.” —Alton Miller to the Reader‘s Florence Levinsohn, after resigning as communications coordinator of Braun’s Senate campaign even before the primary, March 6, 1992.

The rise ‘n’ fall of Carol Moseley Braun

Braun had won a “best legislator” award six years in a row. She’d cleaned up the office of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. When U.S. senator Alan Dixon voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court despite the story told by Anita Hill, a group of powerful Democratic women turned to Braun and urged her to take Dixon on. In a three-way race (there was another white guy running), the nomination was hers to lose. Did she try! One big problem she seemed utterly blind to was campaign manager Kgosie Matthews. Miller told Florence Levinsohn:

“He also managed to alienate many south-side blacks who complained bitterly about his amateurishness and his rudeness. Many of the committeemen who have endorsed her are refusing to work for her because they’re so upset with Kgosie.” Levinsohn added her own opinion: I found Matthews to be as Miller would later describe him—rude, insulting, and spending his time inappropriately—as the candidate’s traveling companion rather than the strategist at headquarters.

Even so, Braun won the primary, and she prevailed in November against a rich Republican who’d led his corporation to ruin while sailing to earth on a $1.1 million golden parachute. An exit poll of voters found that while 53 percent voted for her, 56 percent doubted her honesty. Reviewing the political year for the Reader, Don Rose marveled:

She managed in the primary to be both for and against a capital-gains tax cut and to be for both single-payer and multipayer national health plans. Asked why she cast a good but unpopular vote against library censorship, she answered several ways, first regretting she had cast it, then saying she was in the bathroom when the vote was taken and maybe somebody else pushed her button . . . then denying having said she regretted it, and finally blaming the media for everything.

Braun served one term, ran for reelection, and lost. This year black Chicago was theoretically united behind her race for mayor, yet she received less than 9 percent of the vote and carried just a single precinct.

“A Simple Game”

I can still see Terrell—whippet thin and all of 17 years old —alone at the line, his team down by one, a few seconds on the clock, the whole season at stake. His last shot, a jumper, had bounced off the rim, and he had been fouled in the fight for the rebound. If he hit his free throws, Roosevelt High would beat Prosser and move on to the next round of the Public League playoffs, If he missed, another season, his last, would end in disappointment. Either way, Terrell Redmond would remember these free throws for the rest of his life.

So began Ben Joravsky’s portrait of the unheralded basketball program of Roosevelt High. Forty thousand words later, readers found out whether Terrell made his free throws. Joravsky’s story was reprinted in The Best American Sports Writing 1993. It was the longest article ever chosen for that series.