There are times when a politician firmly and unmistakably puts a foot in his mouth and pays for it dearly.

Last week in Indiana, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? GOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE (R-Texas) won the prize for a verbal infraction that was so huge, it will be cited for years to come. To properly understand the enormity of Cruz's erroneous utterance, you must be aware of the fact that no state in the union is more obsessed with basketball than Indiana. If you drive throughout the state, you will see basketball hoops in what seems every backyard.

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Notably, the 1986 movie "Hoosiers" forever enshrined the roundball game in the hearts and minds of ordinary Americans. The iconic film told the story of a very small town's miraculous journey to the state high school basketball championship. The year was 1954: Bobby Plump made the last-second shot that gave the small school in the tiny town of Milan the state title. Gene Hackman played the coach and Dennis Hopper the assistant coach. If you didn't love this movie, there is something very wrong with you.

William Gildea wrote a wonderful book about the state's absolute love of the game called "Where The Game Matters Most." The Valhalla of basketball is Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. That is where the high school championship game is played every year. (It is also the home court of Butler University). The film "Hoosiers" was actually filmed there, which gave the movie such authenticity and verve.

So what does Cruz do at this very place but in some tortured political metaphor refer to the basketball "rim" as the "ring." Cruz did not commit a mere slip of the tongue — no, this man, to the whole world, displayed a total ignorance of the game that Hoosiers feel is the official state religion. This appalling lack of knowledge and abuse of the nomenclature has been the talk of the town throughout the state, I'm sure.

It reminds everybody of John KerryJohn Forbes KerryKentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' The enemy of my enemy is my friend — an alliance that may save the Middle East Democratic governors fizzle in presidential race MORE calling the home of the beloved Green Bay Packers "Lambert Field" rather than "Lambeau Field." (He barely won the Badger State in the 2004 general election.) Or George McGovern's disastrous order at a Jewish deli in Manhattan, accompanied by then-Sen. Abe Ribicoff (D-Conn.); the 1972 Democratic nominee requested a corned beef sandwich on white with mayo. Immediately, Ribicoff turned to McGovern and said, "George, you just lost New York." (And he did.) Cruz should have a glancing familiarity with the game of basketball. He went to Princeton. Does the name Bill Bradley mean anything to you?

Cruz then made his political fortunes even more dismal by naming Carly Fiorina his running mate. If there were ever a more desperate act, I can't think of one. Fiorina has no connection to Indiana and its 57 winner-take-all delegates. If this was an attempt to win the 172 delegates in the big June California Primary, Cruz also failed miserably. Yes, Fiorina was a past California U.S. Senate candidate, but she was beaten handily by Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D) and departed the state years ago and resides now in the commonwealth of Virginia. Cruz, never viewed as likeable or charming, has finished himself off in Indiana. Couple that with the fact that there is no party registration in the Hoosier State, which enables all basketball fans to cast a vote in protest against Cruz.

Cruz's rival, Republican front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE, recruited Indiana basketball god Bobby Knight to endorse him. It's just a subtle reminder to further make the point that Cruz has shot an air ball at the rim. So, say goodbye today to Ted, the only guy who could ever make Trump appealing.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.