Why Politics Isn’t Sports

With the presidential election in 2012 just around the corner, the media frenzy will soon be in full swing. If it’s anything like 2008, the media will cover the election like a sporting event.

In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Sports may very well be the world’s most successful form of entertainment, and the techniques it has pioneered (play-by-play, color commentary, talk radio, highlight films, etc.) are an integral part of how we view the world.

When CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News rolls out a lineup of “experts” and spin doctors to analyze a recently concluded debate, it resembles nothing so much as the in-studio postgame show after a sporting competition. (By the way, in this analogy, which talking head is Charles Barkley? James Carville?)

Yet there is one crucial way in which politics isn’t sports. Sports, with a few exceptions, is morally neutral. Each team has fans and haters, but the teams and players aren’t actually evil (unless we’re talking about scumbags like Bill Romanowski) and who wins and loses ultimately doesn’t matter to anyone but the fans.

Like sports journalism, media coverage of politics will often focus on the virtuosity of technique. We admire “consummate politicians” like Bill Clinton for their remarkable abilities on the field. But it’s one thing to admire LeBron James for his ability to lead the Miami Heat to victory (or not…zing!). It’s another to admire Dick Cheney for his ability to subvert the Constitution.

Unlike in sports, in politics, you can’t admire the player if the cause is unjust.

3 thoughts on “Why Politics Isn’t Sports

  1. America's "sports team" mentality pervades all aspects of American life.

    We pick sides almost arbitrarily and then root for those sides, feeling like we owe them loyalty.

    How else do we explain the perpetual two party system we have?

    It's ridiculous, and disgusting to me.

  2. Ironic that one of the examples you use, the only political one, Chaney, is used like a sport in this post – to score political points… – only, in sports there are statistics to back up the outrageous claims, not mere conjecture. 'subvert' is a strong word, and the connotation is not mistakable … but the statistics of Chaney's life in politics tell a different story. Maybe one you should open your mind to and learn from. If he were anyone else, besides someone from the opposite 'team', he'd be Michael Jordan and John Elway rolled into one. Tremendously successful and thoroughly skilled at guiding this country on the right (and the 'right') path.

  3. Paul,

    Dick Cheney is a great man in the historical sense of the word, but as Vice President, his job is to help the President uphold the Constitution of the United States. In that sense, he failed.

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