Senator to settle BCS bet by singing 'Rocket Man'


Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 3:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 3:25 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) Forget all those inaugural concerts. The most pressing musical issue in the nation's capital is whether a stone-face senator from Oklahoma will hit the high notes in "Rocket Man" to pay off a college football bet.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn is slated to serenade Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida with his very own rendition of Elton John's 1970s classic Wednesday afternoon.

Coburn owes Nelson because the Florida Gators defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 24-14 in last week's BCS title game. Nelson chose "Rocket Man" because he is a former astronaut who flew on the space shuttle Columbia in the 1980s.

If Oklahoma had won, Nelson would have had to sing the title song from the musical "Oklahoma!" It also happens to be the official state song.

Coburn spokesman John Hart said his boss won't wear a leisure suit for the performance but would be ready. He acknowledged the vocal range for "Rocket Man" is a "bit more expansive" than for the song Nelson would've had to sing.

Coburn's singing talents may be untested, but he does have a family pedigree. His daughter, Sarah Coburn, is a nationally acclaimed opera singer who has performed alongside the likes of Placido Domingo.

Coburn, a physician, is best known as a budget hawk who has given Senate Democrats headaches for years by using procedural tactics to block new spending measures.

Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the senator "is looking forward to settling the wager in good spirit and with a sense of humor."

It's not the first time Nelson has won an unusual football bet with a Senate colleague. Two years ago, he perched on one knee over Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and counted as Brown tried to do 55 push-ups. The number equaled the total score of that season's BCS title game in which Florida beat Ohio State 44-14.

Brown only made it to 43, and Nelson finished the rest.

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