Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sports Analogy Sunday

I know sports analogies are overdone in politics. But it comes with the territory of competition, and maybe more naturally for me growing up in a coaching family.

And it's Sunday afternoon and I'm waiting for a 3:25 kickoff for the Packers and Eagles, with major implications for control of the Senate... I mean, the NFC, and old grudges (4th and 26) to boot.

There's that bipolar nature: two teams, two parties, one winner, one loser... oh, wait! We got a guy here with an easy plan to overthrow the two party system! So simple: just referendums, which don't exist in a majority of states, and two constitutional amendments, which require a consensus level super majority that would be hard to get in the current political climate on anything as controversial as Puppies Are Cute.

Football in particular has come on hard times, with this year's controversies over domestic violence and head injuries... though Jonathan Chait argues liberals get some of football wring (worth the long read).

The Great One, Hunter Thompson, was a football freak, and here he offers some gonzo writing tips:
The game had already started, but there was no score. I dumped my ale bottles in the styrofoam cooler, then opened one and sat down to watch the action and brood on Nixon’s treachery. But first I concentrated on the game for a while. It is hard to understand how somebody else thinks unless you can get on their wavelength: get in tune with their patterns, their pace, their connections… and since Nixon is a known football addict, I decided to get my head totally into the rhythm of this exhibition game between the Rams and Kansas City before attempting the jump into politics.

In any case, by the end of the first quarter I felt ready. By means of intense concentration on every detail of the football game, I was able to “derail” my own inner brain waves and re-pattern them temporarily to the inner brain wave rhythms of a serious football fanatic. The next step, then, was to bring my “borrowed” rhythms into focus on a subject quite different from football—such as presidential politics.

In the third and final step, I merely concentrated on a pre-selected problem involving presidential politics, and attempted to solve it subjectively… although the word “subjectively,” at this point, had a very different true meaning. Because I was no longer reasoning in the rhythms of my own inner brain waves, but in the rhythms of a football addict.

By half time, with the Rams trailing by six, I had established a firm scientific basis for the paranoid gibberish I had uttered, an hour or so earlier...
 But in the mood most Democrats are in this month, all I can think about is losing.

In 2002, Bill Simmons of ESPN wrote a classic column,  "The 13 Levels of Losing," which attempts to quantify The Agony Of Defeat. The highest level, That Game, is reserved for "Game 6 of the 1986 World Series... the most catastrophic sports loss of our lifetime."

Translate "Buckner" into "butterfly ballot" and you get the idea.

Bruce Braley's defeat definitely reaches the upper Levels of Losing. Which fits best?
Level VI: The Full-Fledged Butt-Kicking
Definition: Sometimes you can tell right away when it isn't your team's day ... and that's the worst part, not just the epiphany but everything that follows -- every botched play, every turnover, every instance where someone on your team quits, every "deer in the headlights" look, every time an announcer says, "They can't get anything going," every shot of the opponents celebrating, every time you look at the score and think to yourself, "Well, if we score here and force a turnover, maybe we'll get some momentum," but you know it's not going to happen, because you're already 30 points down ... you just want it to end, and it won't end ... 
Not quite, because until the very end the game seemed close.

Level IV: The Broken Axle
Definition: When the wheels come flying off in a big game, leading to a complete collapse down the stretch ...  

Sort of, but we felt the wheels coming off way before the 4th quarter.
Level V: The "This Can't Be Happening" Game
The sibling of the Full-Fledged Butt-Kicking ... you're supposed to win, you expect to win, the game is a mere formality ... suddenly your team falls behind, your opponents are fired up, the clock is ticking and it dawns on you for the first time, "Oh my God, this can't be happening." 
That feels about right. Was supposed to be an easy bout, against an unranked contender... and all of a sudden it's a damn fight.

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