Playing Politics or Playing Sports: Which is Sillier?

[For the audio version, click here: Bacon_Politics2012_w-webopen-11-9-2012]

Whether your candidates won or lost this week, we can all rejoice that it’s finally over.  Or, we think it is.  We can’t be sure anymore, can we?

Watching the political contests and the sporting contests this week, I got to thinking: Which is sillier: playing politics, or playing sports?

As silly as sports are – and I seem to devote half my commentaries to that very subject – after watching the 2012 campaigns, I can tell you, it’s not even close: Playing politics is sillier, in a landslide.

In the sporting world, you’re not supposed to badmouth your opponent, or even talk about them very much.  Coaches always say, “I’m just focusing on my team.”  And then – amazingly – that’s what they actually do.

In politics, badmouthing the other guy is just about all they do.  And if there is any expectation of clean play anymore, I must’ve missed it – along with just about every single candidate.

In sports, you cannot blame the weather.  The coaches’ cliché here goes like this: “Both teams played on the same field, didn’t they?”  In politics, they start blaming the weather before they’ve even lost.

In sports, when a coach changes his strategy repeatedly, they don’t call him a flip-flopper. They call him a former coach.  If only that were true in politics.

In sports, if you whine about the referees – no matter how bad they might be – they call you, well, a whiner.  Which kind of makes sense.  In politics, when they’re not badmouthing each other, they’re crying about Rush Limbaugh and Fox News on one side, and Ed Schultz and MSNBC on the other.  But forget the refs.  In politics, they can’t even agree on the score – or even when the game is over.

Football, hockey and even baseball have recently added instant replay to ensure they make the right call.  Yes, the delays are annoying – but not as annoying as watching a candidate deliver whopper after whopper, only to hear the political pundits tell us they’re curious to see what the fact checkers will make of all that — in a few days.  By then, of course, the lies have already circled the globe a few times.

Fact checkers?  I’m old enough to remember what we used to call them: “Journalists.”  If it’s not the pundit’s job to know what the facts are, what is his job?  Is he just a game show host, who passes every tricky question to the “judges”?  Wink Martindale can do that.

But the craziest difference between sports and politics is how they treat their audience.  In sports, they want you to come see their team, and they make it easy.  But in politics, after they bombard you with billions of dollars of ads to get you interested, they make you wait five hours to play.   You know it’s bad when we look forward to ads about elections being replaced for ads about erections.  (Remember, if your election lasts more than four years, consult your poll worker.)

When it comes to voting, forget comparing our election system to those of third world banana republics.  Even the almost-defunct National Hockey League – currently on the verge of canceling another season — makes it easier to vote for the All-Star team than our government makes it to pick the leader of the free world.

Let that sink in.

We like to say sports teach us lessons we can use later in life – but that’s not true if you become a politician.  Then, you take everything that sports taught you – and do the exact opposite: focus on your opponent, not your own game; deny reality, including the score; and after you lose, blame everyone – even the refs and the weather — before you blame yourself.

Oh, I dream of a day, when we take politics as seriously as we take sports.

* * * * *

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4 comments Leave a comment  

  • Josh Reyher November 9, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Profane easy to determine but insanity? That’s 4th and long, punt!

  • Ed Kornblue November 9, 2012 at 7:55 am


    You have couched the irrationalities, divisiveness, and inacurracies that come into play in the political game, in terms we can all understand. Your comparison to the world of sports is most appropriate.

    I take my Michigan sports teams very seriously!

    I also compliment you on your journalistic skills, and your “fact checking”.

    Go Blue!
    Dr. Ed Kornblue

  • David Willkie November 9, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Bacon, once again, your wit and wisdom is right on track.

    Imagine if we let the fans determine the outcome of sporting events. (The Dallas Cowboys might actually have a decent team this year.)

    Or, what if when a quarterback called a audible, he also gets penalized for flip flopping.
    (Peyton Manning would be doubtful for Canton.)

    Or if media really delved into the personal lives of sports figures.
    (Please spare us all.)

    And don’t tell me there isn’t trash talking in sports. At least on the field it can be an art form just as in the political world. It’s just who gets caught for retaliation.

    And what about sportscasters and talking political heads on TV. Were they separated at birth? I would put Jimmy Johnson’s hair against anyone in the political world. (Has his hair ever moved. . . ever?)

    In politics like sports, it is a zero sum game. We have winners and losers only to be played over and over again.

    In the end, politics is known as being like Hollywood for ugly people. Let’s just be thankful that we have sports to distract us and let us imagine how we wish the world really was.

    Is it Sunday yet?

  • Phil Hemenway November 12, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Wink Martindale made a sports blog!

    You must be catching up on re-runs of “Tic-Tac Dough” in your off time.

    Well John, You pick the winners, Wink is in the American TV Game Show Hall of Fame, they actually have that in Las Vegas?

    I agree with your conclusion on fact checkers, all too often I hear “journalists”, reuse US government distributed information as fact, never bothering to see if there is any truth to the statements. Now and then I listen to the BBC or CBC and note the differences in what is broadcasted.

    Sorry to see another NHL season hit the skids…and I “had” tickets to the game in Big House…oh well.


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