Political Football

Well, there you go again.

You voted for that putz, and he won. Or he lost, and the putz you didn't vote for, the putz you were hoping your putz would cancel out, won. And looking back, you can see it really didn't matter which one of the major party's McCandidates got elected-a conclusion 85 percent of the population who didn't vote reached before you. And again, you're left like James Joyce's Molly Bloom: unsatisfied, your skirt around your ears, wanting of hope and cab fare home.

The tragedy is that you could have done something about this; it was as easy as turning to the back of this publication. For those of you who don't read our Sports page-and from our market research, that would be all of you-there's a little feature there called Political Football, in which I pick the winner of an NFL game. I don't do this by looking at which team has the strongest defense or running game. This isn't about who has the best chance of winning, but rather who is most deserving, who should win, if there is a just and loving God.

I don't consult polls (standings) or popular wisdom (point spreads). I base my decision on the regions these teams come from and the actions and habits of the inhabitants of that part of the country. I picked Pittsburgh over the Seahawks because Seattle had sanctioned a whale hunt. I picked New York over the Falcons because Atlanta threw a crass Olympics. I picked Green Bay over the Buccaneers because Tampa Bay is home to the American Family Association, which is attempting to amend that state's constitution to prohibit legislation extending civil-rights protections to gays. I chose against Dallas because they killed Kennedy.

Now this was, of course, a stupid way to pick football games. I was picking games on merit instead of probability, going with what I wanted to happen instead of choosing out of fear that I might waste my choice. And as you might expect, through the first nine weeks of the NFL season, I was 9-0 with my picks.


Guys with 900 numbers don't do this well. Guys in pinkie rings who dispose of the bodies of guys with 900 numbers in quarry pits don't do this well.

And it got me to thinking: What if I applied the lessons learned in Political Football to politics itself? As we all know, sports teach many valuable lessons. Paramount among them is that if you apply yourself, work hard, show some discipline and a willingness to dream, then with a little luck, you may someday be able to save enough money to afford tickets to watch self-absorbed, syphilitic professional athletes/corporate shills give a half-assed effort. Sports is also a good deal more popular than politics because: (1) people believe, for the most part, that sports are on-the-level, that the outcome is not predetermined or fixed; and (2) people believe they actually have some influence on sports, that through the purchase of a giant foam hand or by taunting an athlete about his recently deceased mother, they can in some way affect the outcome of a game.

Most people believe neither of these things about politics, where they think their participation is trumped by big-money interests and bigger-money interests. There may be a candidate out there they like, one who sounds like them and thinks like them but for whom they would never consider voting because a person like that-like them-never wins elections. And this is another lesson sports has taught us: nobody wants to be associated with a loser.

And then along comes Political Football, and it says you should take the 3-4 Jets against the 5-1 Falcons, and you do, and the Jets kick Atlanta's ass all the way back to Newt Gingrich's Georgia. It says take working-class Oakland and their pansy-ass quarterback against Pete Wilson's spawning ground of San Diego, and you do, and the Raiders win on a last-second bomb. And you think back to the person you hoped you'd become when you were young, the young person who thought she would always vote for the John Andersons of the world. But the world does something to you, and one day, you think back to how silly you were when you were young, about the foolhardiness of actually doing the right thing. And pretty soon, your idea of making a bold political statement is falling on your sword in the governor's race for Dianne Feinstein or Kathleen Brown. Your idea of change becomes voting for Gray Davis, who throughout the election wants to make sure you know that he really wants to kill criminals and that he always thought killing criminals was a capital idea even when he was chief of staff for “a governor”-as his ads disembody Jerry Brown-who was a former Jesuit seminarian who thought capital punishment was a bad idea and was opposed to the death penalty.

Well, I'm off that. Political Football has changed me. I see that it's not only right, but also expedient, to vote your beliefs.

You say: “Expedient? If you vote for the candidate you actually want, you're pretty much assuring the bad guy will win.”

C'mon, the way things are now, the bad guy is always going to win-no matter who you vote for. That's today. But look at New Mexico. In New Mexico, people have been voting for Green Party candidates in greater numbers, pulling enough votes to actually influence the outcome of elections, usually to the disadvantage of Democratic candidates.

You say, “See, that's bad.”

No, that's good. In New Mexico, the Green effect has been such that Democratic candidates have been forced to adopt much of the Green platform. This is progress; this is how big political parties are moved to change. They're like any big company that actually doesn't come up with anything itself but simply co-opts those things that will make it ever more profitable. If they are shown there are votes to be had by adopting this or that issue, they're likely to do it: Perot, Progressives, George Wallace, the Grange, the Christian Coalition. . . . This is how things get done.

“Oh,” you say, “but I don't know what I think anymore when it comes to politics. I've acted out of fear for so long that I don't know what is deserving anymore. I'm all out of faith. This is how I feel. I am cold, and I am shamed, lying naked on the floor.”

Granted. Old habits are hard to break. There is another sports lesson: it's about teamwork. So let me pass on to you all that I have learned about making the right choices by writing Political Football: never support anything that in any way benefits small minds, Pete Wilson, racists, those who would subjugate the Earth, recently defeated Senator Alfonse D'Amato, hate, homophobes or Texas.

I have followed this simple plan and prospered. I encourage you to do the same. Together, we can build a better nation, one with a more representative democracy, a country devoid of fear or of settling, and-God willing-one day, a nation free from groin injuries.

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