28 Mar Play Ball!
Celebrating two full years of writing the 130 politically-themed posts in our Principle Based Politics blog, today, as an anniversary present to ourselves and a tip of the cap to baseball’s Opening Day, we write about politics by comparing it to a sport that is near and dear to our hearts.*
Baseball and Politics
Baseball is optimistic. If you look at the baseball schedule, you will see that Opening Day is Thursday. At this time of year, hope springs eternal. Usually, on the field, it is anybody’s ballgame. Our team has prospects and comeback players, with anticipation of a bounce-back season. It looks like we possess the talent to get runners in scoring position and swing for the fences. Even if our season starts slowly, we know “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Optimists that we are, baseball fans will don our rally caps, expecting the best. At worst, we can always say with hope: “Wait until next year.”
Politics, by contrast, is pessimistic and cynical. If you look at the political agenda, you will see the sides plotting to thwart, oust, undermine, and impeach the other. They will veto, investigate, embargo, sanction, censure, avoid the fiscal cliff, and raise the debt ceiling. For these reasons and more, nobody ever picks a fantasy political team, like they optimistically do with baseball.
Baseball is more fun. Carlin famously noted that baseball takes place in a “park” and involves “going home.” When you Take [Yourself] out to the Ballpark, perhaps you will get to watch extra innings or even see someone you know on the kiss cam. Win or lose, generally a good time is had by all.
In politics, things are much more serious. Parties have “operatives” and committees hold tedious, speech-filled hearings on bills and amendments. Every election is called “the most important in our lifetimes,” the fate of the nation is said to hang in the balance, as do the future of democracy and even the free world as we know it.
Biblically speaking. Yes, baseball is in the Bible. See “In the big inning” (Genesis 1:1, sort of) and “Peter rose” (Acts 9:39). Politics is not in the Bible, except Old Testament discussion of “the law” and the scary references to Roman governors like Pontius Pilate.
Positive terms. Fielders can catch someone in a rundown, and hitters swing for a grand slam. Politicians run down the opposition, and a slam likely is a vicious, personal attack.
A runner can steal a base. Losers claim stolen elections.
Our Opening Day baseball pitcher will take the hill, and we hope he will have good control of his pitches. Republicans and Democrats alike strive to “take Capitol Hill” because they hope to control the country.
Pitchers “spin the ball” in throwing a curve or slider. Politicians spin the facts.
It often is said that baseball is all about pitching, pitching, and more pitching. In politics, we have campaign ads pitching candidates, often through negativity, negativity, and more negativity.
The base itself, base hits, and the bases being loaded are features of baseball. Pandering to or riling up your base are features of politics.
Baseball has the Dodgers. So does politics, but its evaders are almost anyone asked a question in a debate or press conference.
Baseball is blissful. They are playing a game, literally. In baseball, even getting a hit is a joyous occasion. A pitcher can earn a save, a batter can take a walk, and both hitters and pitchers surely can make big money as free agents. Everything is pleasant.
Conversely, politics is an angry contest. Some are accused of being traitors, undemocratic, and hating America. Too often, politicians play games of the bad kind, engaging in spiteful gamesmanship.
Acronyms. Then there are the acronyms. “ERA” is present in both, but there is no similarity between an earned run average and the Equal Rights Amendment. A successful batter can earn an RBI, but a wayward politician may meddle with the FBI. WHIP is a pitcher’s walks and hits per inning. A majority whip chastises members to toe the party line in Congress.
Whereas politics divide, baseball unifies. Every ballclub’s goal is to work together and win its division. “We” may have tickets to watch “our team,” which welcomes players from all over the world. There are team players, teamwork, and All-Star Teams.
Politics reflects national disunity, so politicians use divide-and-conquer tactics. They also separate themselves into caucuses. Rather than welcoming outsiders, they selfishly stoke immigration fears and racism. There is polarization and tribalism.
Baseball rules are clear. Political rules are murky. Three strikes and you are out. Ball four, take your base. Over the fence is a homerun. Batted ball caught on the fly is an out. Politics created the United States Tax Code. Enough said.
Cleanliness. Baseball teams try to clear the bases with their clean-up hitter. A pitcher strives to throw a clean inning. Political parties, on the other hand, dig up dirt on their opponents and hang their dirty laundry out at every opportunity. Cleanliness, like principles, is next to godliness, as they say.
Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.
Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.