February 7, 2008

The Giants’ Bandwagon Makes a Campaign Stop

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One of my favorite lines from The Simpsons occurs when Judge Snyder decrees that “religion and science must stand 500 feet away from each other at all times.” The same thing can easily be said about sports and politics. I think that the two should almost never mix, especially because politics sometimes causes otherwise normal people to turn into a cross between Jack Nicholson from The Shining and those zombies from I Am Legend.
But I am going to break my rule because recently, there has been a publicized crossroads between politics and sports, thanks to an underdog team with a red-faced coach, a Cornell graduate and a dream — the New York Giants. As soon as the Giants won the Super Bowl this past Sunday night, the presidential candidates decided to jump full throttle on the Giants’ bandwagon.
It all started on Monday night, when Hillary Clinton appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. Before talking about taxes, health care or her husband, she delighted us with her knowledge of football and her account of watching the game. Apparently, the Giants have inspired Clinton, who claimed that, “the fourth quarter before Super Tuesday, you’ve got to keep going.”
This was all lovely (despite not really making any sense) until Hillary’s rival, Barack Obama, used a similar tactic. Speaking at the Izod Center, home of the New Jersey Nets (and right next to Giants Stadium), Obama opined about the incredible feat of bringing Patriots fan Ted Kennedy along with him to the Meadowlands right after the Super Bowl. Later during the rally, former New Jersey governor Richard Codey said, “Two months ago, they said Obama couldn’t win Iowa, but he won, just like the Giants.”
It does not stop there, though, as the Giants’ win crossed party lines (the team’s colors are blue and red, after all). Campaigning for John McCain, Rudy Giuliani compared the Giants upset win to the McCain comeback. Mike Huckabee, a Dallas Cowboys fan, also compared himself to the Giants, apparently not realizing that the Giants are the Cowboys’ heated rivals.
Great, now every political candidate thinks that all of a sudden they are John Clayton. Can we please put a stop to the sports metaphors? I can only imagine what the candidates would have said if the Patriots had won the Super Bowl?
Hillary: Even though I claim to root for sports teams from both New York and Chicago, I now like a third city, Boston, the underdog city, just like my campaign!
Obama: Tom Brady likes to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and I represent change as well!
McCain: Junior Seau is really old, and so am I. Vote for me!
To make matters worse, sports and sports affiliations have permeated into all facets of the campaign. Bill Richardson infamously claimed to have been drafted by the Athletics, which turned out to be completely false. Then, Richardson compounded his baseball idiocy by saying he was a fan of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Hillary Clinton actually was asked in a debate about her flip-flopping between being a fan of the Yankees and the Chicago Cubs.
For better or for worse, sports and politics have been intertwined throughout most of the 20th century. Athletes such as Gerald Ford, Jack Kemp, Bill Bradley and Steve Largent have all become successful politicians, partially because of fans’ memories of them in their heyday. Also, some of the most endearing images of John F. Kennedy were of him playing football. President Bush loves to talk about baseball and once owned the Texas Rangers.
But recently, as the Giants’ victory has proven, sports comparisons to politicians have become diluted and empty. Candidates now just try to find some way to make every sports story relate directly to him or her. In addition, they pretend to actually like these teams to appeal to that team’s particular fan base.
As a sports fan (even though I do not like the Giants), I find this particularly disingenuous. I root hard for my teams, and if they succeed, I don’t want some hungry politician to bask in my glory. Real fans follow their teams 24/7, know everything about the team, constantly hope that that second-round draft pick actually pans out and get angry when their team’s kick returner does not make the Pro Bowl. It is insincere for these politicians to take credit for being fans and jump on the bandwagon.
In addition, this behavior would certainly not be acceptable if the person in question was an average person. I certainly cannot support a sports fan who jumps from team to team to suit their purposes. Why should we trust a politician who does the exact same thing?
Clearly, similar to Judge Snyder’s decree from The Simpsons, politics and sports should stay far away from each other at all times. Some hope does remain, though. Even though I certainly don’t agree with his politics, and I think Patriots fans are lower on the food chain than a common barnacle, I was impressed Mitt Romney’s behavior during the Super Bowl.
According to reports, Romney, a huge Patriots fan, was predictably upset when the Giants pulled out the victory. A nearby reporter asked him to compare the game to his campaign. Apparently, Romney shook his head and said, “no metaphor, no metaphor.” His campaign may be floundering and I may not support his bid for the presidency, but this might have been the most insightful thing anyone has said through the entire campaign process.