LONGSHOTS: “Yankees Suck”-like mentality fuels political discontent
by Dave Long
The presidential election finally gets here on Tuesday. It’s been a test of endurance that makes Sunday’s Manchester Marathon seem like skipping across Elm Street — which it certainly is not. And that makes it especially something when you consider it’s been done by a guy in his 70s, where the admirable Senator McCain doesn’t seem to be any the worse for the wear.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been contentious or really nasty. It has, with a lot more of it coming from the right side of the diamond if you know what I mean, at least in the presidential race (here come the leftist media elite comments). It’s been pretty equal in a second straight embarrassing he-she Senate race between the thoroughly disappointing John Sununu and Jeanne Shaheen. We’ve got real problems and they’re telling us bad things about the other one — but has anyone heard even one thing these two adolescents plan to do? What a great way to vote — because the other one sucks more than I do. Of course, that’s how I voted for President Bush last time — when they almost kicked me out of the voting booth in Hooksett after taking too long deciding between him and Senator Kerry.
It reminds me of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry when I just said no to attending in person anymore. The mindless “Yankees suck!” mentality had become a huge turnoff as a growing number of fans were taking it to idiotic levels. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, passion is great. It raises the intensity, gets the competitive juices flowing and rivets attention. A crowd helps a team by giving it energy or by distracting the bad guys (think foul shooting at Duke) and it makes games even better. But fighting in the bullpen amid scary fan unruliness, like in the Pedro-Don Zimmer fight game of 2003, is taking it way too far.
It’s relevant this week because a lot of political discourse these days is like the “Yankees suck!” chant. Thanks in part to flag- waving nitwits like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and unchecked partisanship on both sides, the divide between left and right has grown wider and harsher. For Sox fans it’s like hearing John Sterling saying “Yankees win, theee Yankees win” over and over — which conjures images of a cattle prod and what to do with it.
But that’s sports — where it really doesn’t matter. In politics it affects our everyday lives. Like the perilous day of the first bailout vote when Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t have the discipline to keep her yap shut in blaming Republicans for the mess. The response from a key voting block of supposedly country-first Republicans? They voted down the bill to show her (so there) — which sent the stock market into a tailspin that cost our 401(k)s $2 trillion (with a t) dollars because they can’t put partisan bickering aside. It’s like warring parents in a divorce who don’t care it’s killing the kids.
It’s the same instinct as in Sox vs. the Yanks, where if you’re for John McCain, Barack Obama pals around with Karl Marx, Saddam Hussein and George Steinbrenner. If it’s Obama you like, then McCain is a senile old fool who went to high school with Babe Ruth. I think even more than the economy and the war (which I say sheepishly, because for those with loved ones in harm’s way there is no other issue) this is the biggest problem in America and I want it to stop. I don’t want or expect everyone to think the same as me. It’s the way we disagree that I disagree with and the level of acceptance that goes along with someone else who thinks differently from them. It’s why I liked Mike Huckabee, who disagrees but doesn’t vilify. He’s the Derek Jeter of the GOP, on the other side for some, but still likable. That’s the way I think it should be done.
The truth is both are good people and much better candidates than we had the last time. I admire McCain’s toughness, his command of foreign affairs, that he’ll vote against the pressure of his own party when he thinks it’s wrong and was right about the surge. On the downside, he was wrong about starting the Iraq War, his rudderless campaign brings to mind the L.A. Clippers, he hasn’t shown much during the economic crisis, the pick of not-ready-for-prime-time Sarah Palin was solely for political need which flies in the face of his “country first” mantra and I don’t think he can sell it when he really needs to.
As for Obama, I wonder how he’ll pay for everything. What he’ll slash in the budget, because you can’t pay for it if you don’t. On the good — he’s smart and after eight years of the current administration that really means something to me. I don’t worry about the inexperience factor for two reasons. The first is, I saw what a brilliant guy named Theo Epstein did twice after being given the keys to the Red Sox at 29, what several ready-on-day-one GMs couldn’t do in the previous 86 years. Yes, it’s baseball, but it’s still a $650 million enterprise and it shows sometimes a special one can come along.
And then there is his 18-month campaign. People say he hasn’t done anything, but that’s because they refuse to look at the evidence. He beat a candidate in the primary who started with a 25-point first-quarter lead and a huge edge in name recognition, money and party organization. He and Hillary Clinton (with a little help from GW) were the catalyst for staggering jumps in voter turnout and new people registering to vote. He weathered every storm in an arduous battle with the formidable Mrs. Clinton. He drew enormous crowds in the U.S. and in Europe while commanding attention even Ronald Reagan never got, which says he can sell it. And he inspired the largest fundraising effort in history, which doesn’t happen unless you connect in a unique way. Especially when it comes in in dribs and drabs from a record number of regular people. If you can’t admit that, I suspect you’re like the contentious Red Sox fan who still can’t bring himself to say Jeter is a heck of a player.
As you can probably tell, I’m voting for Barack Obama with Sen. McCain being Alydar to his Affirmed. It’s because he gets that the politics of destruction is a force of division in what is supposed to be the United States of America. Even the most ardent Yankees hater will agree that without the evil empire, the greatest rivalry in sports is no more. So like fans of the Yanks and Sox we’re in this together and need to find a way to get along better. That’s a house that won’t get built until someone drives in the first nail.
And I believe Obama is the one to do it.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.