When analysts attempt to discover what makes presidential candidate Michael Dukakis tick, they don't think of checking BYU's varsity football locker room.
They should.Somewhere between the smell of sweaty socks and steam from the showers they'll find Jason Chaffetz sitting next to a locker sporting two Dukakis bumper stickers. Similar stickers used to mysteriously end up in the garbage until someone realized Chaffetz had a never-ending supply.
"Teammates now ask, `When are we going to play touch football at the White House?' " Chaffetz said.
Besides being heir-apparent to BYU's starting place-kicker position, Chaffetz has been calling plays as Dukakis's state campaign co-chairman. It also helps to be related kind of to the Massachusetts Democrat.
His teammates don't quite understand how Chaffetz is the half-brother of Dukakis' stepson, so they just call the presidential hopeful "Uncle Mike." They want Chaffetz to put a BYU football practice on the Utah itinerary being planned for the candidate.
"They all want to know when they are going to meet Mike and when is Mike going to come to practice," Chaffetz said. "We spend hours in the football office arguing
points. I think a lot of them like Dukakis once I explain who he is and what he believes in."
Chaffetz, who lives in a basement apartment where former BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco once slept, believes such discussions of Dukakis' honesty and integrity are making inroads. That is significant in a county that cast the highest percentage of votes for Ronald Reagan in 1984.
"I think more and more people are looking at the person that is running and not necessarily the party," Chaffetz said.
He has taken on a tight schedule of speaking engagements at universities and community gatherings. He is encouraged by a BYU College Democrats straw poll that shows 39 percent of his fellow students support Dukakis.
While the football team of returned LDS missionaries tries to convert him to their beliefs, he has drafted a couple of them into spreading the Dukakis gospel. One teammate, for example, accompanied the campaign to Wyoming.
He believes that the Dukakis rec-ord of turning around a stagnant Massachusetts economy should appeal to Utahns.
"Exactly what is going on with Utah now is the same kind of situation he stepped into when he became governor of Massachusetts," Chaffetz said, "People are really realizing that Utah and Massachusetts have more in common than you would think."
About his experience in the state, he said that the nation misunderstands Utah.
"I thought the Mormons were more like the Amish people. I thought I was going to come here and see Marie Osmond on every billboard saying, `Praise the Lord.' I came to BYU and just loved it. I couldn't find any negatives," Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz, whose godfather is former Los Angeles pitcher Sandy Koufax, said he has helped Dukakis dispel similar misconceptions about the state.
He has found the state much more culturally diverse than he previously believed. He has seen that first-hand as Salt Lake City's large Greek community has rallied in support of Dukakis.
While he is studying media sales, his goals are far more impressive the White House or a position on a professional football team. He hopes the Dukakis campaign experience could land him a job at the White House. While presidential family members are barred from working in the White House, an "almost" relative could.
Chaffetz will probably join the campaign in California after school ends in April.
If Dukakis doesn't make it to the White House, there is likely a pro football career in Chaffetz's future. His father, John, used to manage the Arizona Mavericks and has forged megabuck sports contracts for the likes of Dan Pastorini and Kiki Vandeweghe.
And if all else fails, with a godfather like Koufax, he ought to be able to find a job somewhere, at least as a bat boy.