Basketball is the New Snobbery

Let's talk about sports in politics. Not athletes endorsing candidates, or the need to cast candidates in athletic terms. No, this is the apocalyptic extension of the "he is like me" issue that Dr. LIC treated a few weeks ago. Now, with Palin, we're down to "he is me."

So instead of just peppeting stump speeches with sports metaphors, or, as Obama does, allude to the Packers' loss when in Wisconsin and mention his own Bears misery, these candidates need to throw out the playbook and just talk about sports. Constantly and endlessly. Think about it: First, this election was about gas and corn syrup. Now it's shifted to the apoplectic market which, sorry, is way too abstract and removed from most people's lives. What's the perfect antidote? The National Football League, natch. I swear, if Barack just got up there—during the debate, even—and rattled off ten minutes of non-descript "who's hot, who's not" talk about this year's topsy-turvy beginning, he'd walk away the clear-cut winner. Not just "he watches football, like me," but "his brain is similarly consumed by it."

But of course, it has to be convincing, authentic. And therein lies the hitch. Notice, I'm only talking about the NFL—neither Obama nor McCain can claim a college team of note, unless you count Cindy's Trojans (a net minus?). Plus, as partisan as NFL fans are, they've got nothing on the provinicial trappings of college sports. So good look mentioning any other college team at Ole Miss. . . or finding any other sport that's really real before that audience. That's where the Obama campaign has the edge: Its multi-tiered, situational approach to just about everything could gauge where and when to use this tactic, as well as how much to mention his Bears versus the home team, and what exactly the audience would buy. Contrast that with McCain, whose best gimmick seems to be inserting city-specific Hall of Famers into his P.O.W. tales.

And then there's that tricky issue of race. Look, I know why Obama played up the basketball thing. It earned him cred in the black community, and made him seem young and hip. But even if the sport's no longer highly toxic on the identity politics front, it's still seen as a black game—unless you're laundered by a Big 10 program, or grew up playing in a lunch box. This News One piece by Drew Ricketts is a little strident for me, but it has a Dwyane Wade quote that, while it thrills me, is exactly why Big O's basketball identification could subtlely drag him down:

Wade: Wooooowww.... One thing about Obama is that he has his own style... and that's what we love. He's not the typical presidential candidate. Anyone else who's been in office before him knows that. He's not afraid to showcase his style. He loves to play basketball. He hoops and that's how he stays in shape. He doesn't run on a treadmill. You can go on and on about the arguments of policy and experience, but at the end of the day, hopefully he becomes our president. We'll all be better for it.

All I'm saying is, that's not going to hit voters the same way "that call sucked" is. It might even come across as alien or alienating. So while sports could win this election for someone, in Obama's case, it's going to involve some back-pedalling on his First Baller image. Or least an attempt to reach across the aisle and show that this kind of relationship with sports dones't mean he's shut out of discussing just what's going on with Favre on the Jets. Also, never mention the Chargers. Yeah, on second though, Big 10 alum seems almost as important as religious background when picking national candidates. Because that's what the people are buying: Not an echo of themselves, or someone who feels their pain, but someone who isn't about to feel joy or pain over that high-falutin' stuff outside their purview.

I could see Obama comparing the Bears QB situation to Bush's advisors, or McCain conflating Michael Vick and Jason Campbell. The smart move, though, is to leave all politics and policy behind. Just turn this into a contest to see who can talk sports better. Not more knowledgeably, or passionately, but just who can prove how much football they're really made of.

Also, fuck this.

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At 9/23/2008 3:21 PM, Blogger trouc said...

somebody needs to tell ziller to get the hell out of there. i think he's about the only reason i ever check fanhouse out anymore.

on the subject of the post, this shit's gonna be pretty concrete in a couple of months if the dollar keeps tanking. he plays this right and he'll be in good shape.

At 9/23/2008 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Also, never mention the Chargers."

I guess I'm just having a "duh" moment, but why not?

At 9/23/2008 4:54 PM, Blogger blake said...

i missed the charger thing too..

At 9/23/2008 5:02 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Because they're my favorite team, so they must be unclean.

At 9/23/2008 6:59 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

That bullshit Roberts pulled during his confirmation hearing about, "The judge is like an umpire and needs to call balls and strikes." Made my brain bleed. But I've been wanting Obama to go sports over the financial crisis. "The bastards pulled the refs! There was no one there to call interference and the game got screwed up."

As for that Vince Young bullshit, why is it always so much more intense for football players than basketball players? Is it just that the two fan bases are self-selecting, that football is so much more poplular, or something more sinister?

At 9/23/2008 7:23 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

The ocean of bullshit surrounding all things Vince Young has to do with the differences between football and basketball fandom, the greater popularity of football, and the people among whom football is more popular. Most importantly, it comes down to race. When a white quarterback runs around, throws a few interceptions, but somehow wins a lot, he's called Brett Favre. Brett Favre is also known as the one guy 95% of straight white male NFL fans would go gay for (this isn't hyperbole; just listen to John Madden or Peter King). Vince Young on the other hand inspires violent, poisonous hatred in these same football types, perhaps due to the recognition of their own hypocrisy, but perhaps because they won't let themselves admit that in spite of an unorthodox (and that's all it is) throwing style, he wins. All the fuckin time. Any objective look at the information tells you this. However, with race relations in the NFL a good 30 years behind everywhere else, black quarterbacks in the NFL are still faced with the Jackie Robinson conundrum: the need to be absolutely perfect, or else absolutely imperfect. The bullshit Donovan McNabb still has to face in Philly is another example.

Amazingly enough, Obama isn't dealing with anything nearly this bad running for president. What that says about football and the kind of mindset that obsesses over it may require whiskey to process properly.

At 9/23/2008 8:57 PM, Blogger Rob Mahoney said...

Ehh I'm not so sure that the Young-Favre comparisons are ready just yet. I've never understood the love fest surrounding Brett, but I think his failures and interceptions are largely a product of his hit or miss throwing style. VY doesn't even have that hit-or-miss yet, he just flat out isn't accurate enough. I definitely think he could be, but you've gotta admit that he's holding the Titans back at this point.

At 9/23/2008 9:04 PM, Blogger GHOSTS said...

do you guys have a different site where you talk about basketball now?

At 9/23/2008 9:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

there's a fucking dwyane wade quote in here.. . what more do you want?

also, there's absolutely zero NBA goings on right now.

At 9/23/2008 10:51 PM, Blogger Johnny said...

I'm not sure if I want to live in a world where the day of Shareef Abdur-Rahim's retirement is recorded in history as "the day of zero goings on" *cries and wails hysterically*.

I really wish Favre would put ESPN's love affair with him to the test and do something extreme like... Take a page out of the Mark Chmura playbook, or become a scientologist or some such. Emerging with a shining image after being addicted to prescription drugs and playing the role of "wishy washy crybaby" throughout his comeback... That stuff just doesn't impress me, he needs to take his game to another level.

At 9/23/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger m. Alana said...

Granted, this is a few days old, but apparently the Suns are planning to start Matt Barnes over Grant Hill. Maybe Barnes is a bit too FD to be FD, if you will, especially as a Sun, but I found it noteworthy.

At 9/25/2008 7:59 AM, Blogger DrewBreez said...

It is strident, sure. I guess I got a little more so because I wanted to address this whole issue of not being able to say anything as an athlete (particularly as it pertains to black ones.) I don't nearly give enough about how J-Ho just plain fumbled in his public image management. Same time, it's not like every dude I know couldn't relate. I know y'all could relate given the kind of animated comments that flew up over the Josh incident. Thank you for linking the post.

At 4/13/2009 2:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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