Tonight is Opening Night in the Major League Baseball season (forget those two silly games in Japan last week) and with such an intense Presidential primary season in full swing and with off-season NFL anticipation reaching a Fever Pitch with the Player draft approaching, things are getting too confusing with all the Sports 'n' Politics 'n' Stuff.
So Sticking Points wants to examine sports heroes and political heroes.
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Fans are Tepid
As I watch John McCain chasing the ever-elusive White House, he reminds me of Alex Rodriguez chasing his ever-elusive World Series ring, and it turns out, the two men have a lot in common.
The most obvious similarity, of course, is that both A Rod and McCain were once accused of having illicit affairs with hot blondes by scandal-mongering trashy gossip rags published in New York City. The main difference is that the New York Post actually had some documentation for their accusation, whereas the New York Times had nothing.
But a closer examination reveals deeper and more significant similarities. For example, did you know that Men's Vogue magazine has done full and glowing profiles of both Alex Rodriguez and John McCain? Is it okay to put "glowing" and Vogue in the same sentence as "John McCain"?
In 2003, A Rod won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award while playing for the last-place Texas Rangers. In 2003, McCain was the Chairman on the Senate Commerce Committee while Congress and the White House were both held by the Republicans, during which time the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act was passed and upheld by the Supreme Court.
Which reminds me--both A Rod and McCain made a lot of enemies with their Money shuffling, A Rod by opting out of his contract in the middle of the World Series last year, McCain by trying to opt out of the public campaign finance system this primary season.
But to wax serious for a moment, and to advance the theme of this essay, there really is something sad, almost poignant about the way the two populations to whom these men are supposed to appeal treat their guy. New York Yankees fans seem never to have taken to A Rod; he's done everything that could be reasonably be expected and more. He won two more MVPs while in Yankee pinstripes. He gets blamed for Yankee failure even when it was a team effort. How many Yankees fans, for example, remember that A Rod hit a home run in the famous Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, a game lost by the Yankees in extra innings to begin their humiliating slide to histroic ignomy by choking away a 3-0 series lead? Why does A Rod take the blame for terrible relief pitching in Game 4 and terrible starting pitching in Game 7?
A Rod just can't get no love. Similarly, the Republican party seems to be, to put it mildly, less than wildly enthusiastic about their nominee. Many conservative pundits and activists seem even yet to only grudgingly acknowledge his primary victory. They feel as stuck with McCain as Yankees fan feel stuck with A Rod. For instance, in the scandal-mongering controversy mentioned above, it seems activists were far more engaged and passionate in expressing their hatred for the New York Times than they were in defending McCain. From a Republican perspective, on the Big Things, especially the Biggest Things, Iraq and the War on Terror, McCain has been right there backing Bush Administration policy. Is it McCain's fault that the Bush Administration's execution of policy has been so incredibly bad that they turned an all but certain victory into a humiliating defeat?
The McCain campaign is essentially broke. Pundits aren't writing about him, activists aren't singing his praises, talk radio has barely mentioned him for weeks. Local party committees aren't clamoring for McCain to do local fundraisers and local politicians aren't pestering him for endorsements. Seems like Republicans and conservatives are now willing to accept him, but love him? Doesn't seem that way.
Finally. Oh Yeah. Alex Rodriguez is a pretty solid Republican.
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Go Away Closer
I couldn't help but notice some similarities between Hillary Clinton and Brett Favre this week. Both Hillary and Brett were the darlings of their parent organizations at one time. Now, both represent a problem of one sort or another to that parent organization.
In Brett's case, he had been the star and the glue of the Green Bay Packers for 17 years. Rather like Hillary, when sports writers wrote about the Pack, it was mainly about Favre. When the MSM wrote in 2007 about the 2008 primary season, it was mainly about Hillary. For much of 2007, the articles went on and on about her organization, her fundraising and her wide support among Democrats, her superstar husband. We were told that the superstar husband was her ace in the hole. Everyone loves Bill. None of the other candidates would have someone on their team who could draw crowds like Bill.
Well, now it is 2008. Brett Favre has retired. There are varying opinions as to why and as to whether he was "pushed out" by Packer management. Hillary Clinton has not "retired" from the Democratic primaries and there are varying reports about whether her team's "management", the DNC, wants her to vacate the scene. From this past week's stories, it appears that many at the higher levels of the DNC do want Hillary to go away.
During this past week, Brett's "retirement" has come under new scrutiny. Brett announced his retirement. The Packers and Brett held the required blubberfest with hugs all around. The Packers announced that they would retire #4 and hold a ceremony during the 2008 season. Yet, nearly 30 days after his announced retirement, Brett has not filed the paperwork with the NFL that will make his retirement official. The team does care about that because Brett is tying up a considerable amount of the salary cap. So, the team has made some quiet rumblings, picked up by the press, wondering what the delay might be.
I guess my overall point is that both Hillary and Brett, once the darlings of their respective organizations, are now grains of sand in the gears of those orgs. It is speculated that Brett may have retired prematurely in a fit of pique, while Hillary is having a fit of pique for being pushed to retire early.
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The Sticking Points From both sides of the aisle, too often the shabby opinions that pass for mainstream punditry or the pronouncements of public officials are so lame as to be vulnerable to attack from multiple points of view. This is another in a continuing series in which we get the dagger in on both sides, from both sides.