September 11, 2008
Winning, Not Whining (Bob Franken)
@ 12:35 pm
Oct. 11, 2003. The Red Sox and the Yankees. The pitchers that day were two of baseball's best, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.
It was nasty. When Boston's Martinez threw at a New York batter's head, Clemens came back and fired at the next Boston player.
It quickly turned into a literal brawl. Both sides realized that if they backed down they had no chance of winning.
To show you how juvenile a fan can be: It was exquisite … one of my favorite games, ever. To show you how shameless a writer can be about sports metaphors, it is easy to compare it to that other great rivalry.
Except that when Republicans unleash their beanballs, as they always do, the Democrats fail to respond by taking their own shots. Instead, they freeze. Then they complain how unfairly the other team is playing. They're terrific when they take on each other, but when the real hardball starts, they usually do nothing but protest and get ready to forfeit.
It's happening again. As soon as the GOP rookie Sarah Palin made a hit, Barack Obama and Joe Biden looked like all the energy had been sucked out of them. To further torture this analogy, they began playing only defense. Instead of keeping up their own attack, they spent all their time defending against the McCain rally, instead of grabbing the bat and going after the other guys with it.
Enough of the baseball contrivance: The truth is that ever since the real campaign began less than two weeks ago, and Republicans showed some life and clever tactics, Democrats have looked listless.
What a sudden role reversal! While it is true that one can argue that shameless tactics call into question the moral qualifications of the people who see them, it is also fair to contend that America's adversaries are even more brutish. Surely a president of the United States needs to demonstrate he (and someday she) has the strength to not only withstand an assault but roll over the assailant.
This arena is no place for submissive whiners. To be frank, the Democrats, in the last few days, have looked the part.
What a sad choice it would be if we were left to choose between perceptions of ruthless bullies and weaklings.
Let's not reduce this to Vince Lombardi's claim that "Winning isn't everything — it's the only thing.” That's clever, but it's simple-minded. The way this game is being played again, by BOTH sides, the rest of us are the losers.