This week featured the nationally televised kickoff events for two major fall sports – NFL football and the Presidential campaign. The similarity between the two sports is striking.
Both require a successful mix of a punishing ground game with a targeted aerial assault to win. Both demand creative offensive attacks and coordinated defensive strategies. Misdirection works on the gridiron and it works during debates. If you want to be on the last team standing at the end of the season, you’d better have some star players who perform at their best under the bright lights. Finally, both activities are thought to cause massive head injuries if you play them too long. If you want to play professionally, prepare to get hurt.
The NFL is using replacement referees; politics today uses Facebook friends to adjudicate policy differences and serve as amateur fact checkers. Big plays often determine the outcome. Both sports are dominated by men, and both sports have been slow to add blacks in key leadership positions.
There is one key difference between politics and football. In football, talent and execution decide winners and losers. You can’t buy a championship in football. I cannot say the same for politics.
This particular campaign season and this particular election season run parallel for me in more specific ways. The two major party tickets have much in common with two NFL teams hoping for a big season in 2012. Who will win this season?:
Romney/Ryan = New York Jets
The on the field leadership teams for the GOP and the Jets are made up of 2 good looking white guys, either of whom could run the team. In fact, many fans of both the Republicans and the Jets think that the back-up player should be the starter this year. The most obvious similarity is that both organizations are filled with overrated camera hungry clowns. Waiting on “Hard Knocks: GOP Primaries” to be released on DVD.
If the top player for either team fumbles once or twice, team boosters will be quick to call for Paul Ryan and Tim Tebow to get more playing time. Neither second stringer should be the “face of the franchise”, but this is a rare year when the understudy could be more exciting than the star. I expect the calls for Tebow and Ryan off the bench will be loud by late October.
Sanchez, like Romney, has been tagged as someone who plays not to lose, but in order to go all the way in both pursuits, it will require more risk-taking. Is either one up to that challenge? The rabid fan bases better hope that Sanchez and Romney don’t freeze like statues in the pocket when the heat comes.
In Tampa this week and in New York this summer, the Number 2 was a darling of the religious Right.
By the way, in this comparison, Jets owner Woodie Johnson is Sheldon Adelson, and Rex Ryan is Karl Rove, calling the plays from the sidelines.
Obama/Biden = Denver Broncos
The cool tactician on the playing field, Obama has taken some major hits over the last few years, and like Payton Manning, there are questions as to how many more he can absorb before he is forced into retirement. The Broncos and the Democrats have media-friendly faces at the top of the franchise to promote, Elway and Clinton. Both players have won the Big One. They know what it takes.
Both teams have been associated with Mile High in the past, that’s for sure. Both teams have at their core identity a man that has played the role before – Elway in Denver and Clinton in Washington.
Conventional wisdom says that Manning and Obama do not have a chance without the team playing smothering defense, picking up some fumbles by their opponents (winning the turnover battle), and featuring a ground game that takes the pressure off the QB to do it all by himself.
Can they surround themselves with enough capable players to win it all? The Democratic team and the Denver Broncos team had better all bring their A games this fall. If the plan is to stand around while the guy with the football does all the work, the season will end badly.
Both Bronco fans and Democratic voters hope that the back-up never has to play a down the entire season. Neither Caleb Hanie in Denver or Joe Biden in Washington, DC appears ready to take the reins at a moment’s notice. Actually, Biden as back up is more like signing Vinne Testaverde out of retirement to hold Manning’s clipboard, but I digress.
I am looking forward to an entire fall watching what George Will once described as the worst of America – endless committee meetings punctuated by violence. Not sure if he was talking about football or politics at the time.