Partisan politics and fantasy football

By now I’m sure most of us are pretty sick and tired of all the political ads, most of them accusatory, and the annoying robotic phone calls we have no desire to listen to. And it’s only September. I don’t know how I’m going to stand the onslaught that the next two months will surely bring.

If it was up to me, the TV would remain idle until November 7, when I would flip it on just to see who won. Except for football. I enjoy watching the NFL games, especially my home team, the plainly-named but much loved Cleveland Browns. And it occurs to me that politics in an election year is a lot like football. You’ve got opposing teams battling each other to give their coach, and themselves, the win. Both think they have the right stuff and play hard and sometimes dirty to achieve their goal of victory. They regularly huddle to plan strategy, devising trick plays to keep the opposition off-balance. They attack, suffer through fumbles and turnovers, gain momentum, score some points, and bask in the cheers of the crowd. And both political and football crowds love to say it with signs.

In both politics and football you’ve got players on the left and right, offensive and defensive plays, special teams, extensive TV coverage, backers, returns, and occasionally but rarely a two-point conversion (in politics this is achieved by taking away one vote from your opponent when you convert one to your own team, with a net gain of two). Both even have four-footed mascots and charges of ineligibility.

But one of the things I love to see when I watch a game is the friendly pat on the helmet from one player to another on the opposing team, or the extended arm to help his opponent up after knocking him down. I love to see opposing players after the game is over smiling and chatting like they just ran into each other at the local pub. No hard feelings. Sure, there’s rancor and bad-mouthing between rival teams (much like in politics), but overall these guys come together when they’re not combating each other on the field. Heck, they even switch it up and play on the same team sometimes.

Why can’t politics be like that? Yes, I know, football is just a game and political decisions deal with life and death issues. But when you get right down to it, we all pretty much want the same thing, we’re just working from different playbooks. We disagree on how to achieve it.

Imagine if we could just see those “across the aisle” not as the opposition but as our fellow team members. Oh, man…I’m asking a lot here, aren’t I? Even from myself. But if we could at least just try not demonizing or intentionally misrepresenting each other, listening as much as we speak, and keeping the good of our country and not just ourselves or our party as our ultimate goal, we might find that we can all win.

Pie-in-the-sky, problematic utopianism? Maybe. But if you can have your fantasy football, I can have my pretend politics.