This is a love story.
Like any great love story, some will be punished and some will be pardoned. But in this tale of woe, the punishment was meted out on national television: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey scorned, in his hour of need, by the man whose embrace he had so fervently sought and only recently secured.
It had been a love unrequited – the kind of one-way affection fueling rock songs from the days of poodle skirts and bobby socks.
Christie, a man of outsize emotions, has loved Bruce Springsteen, the boss and icon of the Garden State. But for years, even after attending 129 concerts and attaining the highest political office in the state, Christie, a Republican, has met Springsteen only twice – once on an airplane in 1999, and again in 2010, when they exchanged pleasantries at a ceremony at the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
At venues large and small, the populist rocker seemed to go out of his way to snub the Republican governor. Still, Christie never wavered in his devotion.
As Jeffrey Goldberg chronicled in The Atlantic magazine after attending a 2012 Springsteen show with Christie, the governor accepted that he may never win over the object of affection.
It would not break his spirit. Even when Springsteen wrote an editorial in The Asbury Park Press trashing Christie's budget as cruel to the poor, Christie said he was simply misguided.
"Just because we disagree doesn't mean I don't get him," Christie said.
Love runs deeper than disagreements.
It would take a hurricane to bring the two star-crossed public figures together. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when Christie vaulted to national prominence as he raced to towns along the ravaged shoreline offering aid and comfort, the two finally got their moment together.
At a benefit for hurricane victims at Radio City Music Hall, they embraced. For Christie, it was more than just a hug. He later relayed the experience to US President Barack Obama, who had himself played matchmaker, arranging a call between the two men.
"I told the President today actually that the hug was great and that when we got home there was a lot of weeping because of the hug," Christie recalled after the trip. "And the President said, 'Why?' I said, 'Well, to be honest, I was the one weeping, everyone else was fine.'"
For all of his political success up to that point, for all the adoration he was receiving from people not just in his state but also around the country, being embraced by Bruce proved a powerful validation.
"We hugged and he told me it's official – we're friends," Christie told voters at a town hall not long after the embrace.
But it would not last.
This week, Christie – beset by scandal, accused of being a bully, forced to apologise for the behaviour of aides who had shut down traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish a political opponent – could really use another hug.
Yet it seems he may not find comfort in Springsteen's arms. The relationship's rupture occurred on Tuesday in the most public way, on national television, with a potent weapon: one of Springsteen's own songs, treasured by Christie since he was 13 years old.
Springsteen joined Jimmy Fallon on his late-night talk show to sing a revised version of Born to Run.
"Governor let me in, I want to be your friend, there'll be no partisan divisions," Springsteen sings. "Let me wrap my legs 'round your mighty rims, relieve your stressful condition."
But it was not to be.
"We got Wall Street masters stuck cheek to cheek with blue-collar truckers and man I really gotta take a leak, but I can't," he sang. "I'm stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey, traffic jam."
New York Times