Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach of Green Bay Packers fame, is said to have remarked thusly, about his sport at least -“Winning isn’t everything ……it’s the only thing.” While most sportsters, and most sports, are pretty much all about following the rules, giving a good performance and not taking cheap shots at your opponent (except maybe for NASCAR), much emphasis is indeed on winning, at every level. And it goes without saying that the emphasis on winning increases exponentially at each level, up to the professional level, where the stakes are high for everyone associated with the sport.
And then there is the opinion of the very late Grantland Rice, sportswriter and pundit who is given credit for many mots and witticisms including the admonition “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game”, or a variation of that. Note the diametrically opposed views. For one man, seemingly, failure was not an option. For the other, just the thrill of the hunt, and to be respected by one’s peers as a gentleman (or lady), was the be-all, end-all. Now, it is worth noting that Lombardi had skin in the game, whereas Rice got paid no matter who won or who lost, we assume. So some things are easy to say. Note also that Rice, whose writing style is described as elegant and heroic in portraying the sports he wrote about, probably contributed as much to the popularity of sport in America, in the first part of the last century at least, as did the legends on the fields or in the arenas.
That is sport. In sport, there are rules, but style is important. In sport, the question of winning or losing , and doing it gracefully or determinedly, is up to the participants. But it will always be remarked upon by the pundits from the safety of their viewing boxes. In politics, in a democratic republic, there is no amateur level, and the stakeholders are everybody. Some would say there are rules in politics, just like in sport, but the truth is there are no rules. To be sure, there are laws relating to finance and reporting. But for most considerations as to how, when, where, accompanied by whom, what will be said, promised, asserted, taken for granted, et cetera, there are no rules. Barack H. Obama campaigned for the Presidency of the United States in Berlin, Germany on a platform of One World Government. As Casey Stengel (another sports guy) said, ‘You could look it up!’ And there is no prize for losing. And if your cause is just, and you lose, lots of people lose.
Our good friend Quin Hillyer over at Spectator, a journalist like Grantland Rice, has let it be known that he cannot give Governor Rick Perry his full and unmitigated support, no matter how just Perry’s cause and how right he is on the issues (and he goes to pains to attest to Perry’s rightness on the issues) unless Perry makes a gentleman out of himself. This over the by now famous Bernanke-skanky thingy. Quin is not alone in his opinion that the salvation of America may just have to wait until the next available superhero of Presidential merit appears on scene and agrees not to let his passions get the better of him. But he holds forth from a lofty perch and has the ear of many a political afficionado.
Over at another respected and dignified outlet, National Review Online, another establishment journalist, Daniel Foster, is having apoplexy over Michelle Bachmann’s vow to get gasoline prices down to the $2-a-gallon range again. Foster is aghast that a Presidential candidate would foster (that’s the word I wanted to use, okay?) hope for a less costly future for the bulk of productive, traditional Americans in transporting themselves and their goods by promising to deliver on what Foster says is nigh impossible short of World War III, nationalization of the Petroleum Industry and the complete disintegration of the economy. You might say Foster is the ‘he of little faith’ in this part of the story, but his point is that Bachmann is being irresponsible, and of course, just like we heard from Hillyer, if you don’t play according to Hoyle (cards is a sport, too, right?) and you don’t conduct yourself, and moderate your campaign rhetoric, according to some pundit-approved set of sensibilities, and reasonableness, you’re not ‘Presidential material’.
These people on the right side of things who go tippy-toeing through the tulips (like Tiny Tim, who was a great baseball fan, by the way) probably must be forgiven, for indeed they know not what they do. They think they are, along with practicing the fine art of quality prose and commentary, helping to insure that nothing but the blueblood, blueribbon, cream of the crop, grammatically and artistically correct product is offered for sale to the public bearing the logo of the Grand Old Party. What they are in fact doing is dashing the passions and the hopes of the fans who not only want to see The Intimidator win, but to see him spin out or nudge into the wall as many Fords as he can, because “We really, really do not like Bill Elliott, the car he drives or what he stands for, if you really want to know.” Okay, we’re pushing the sports analogy a little here, but, in addition to the passion thing, a little recognition that there is skin in the game on the part of the voting, arousable public ought to be in order. They do buy tickets, sports merchandise and Chevies, you know. Not much sense in putting on a show if it isn’t attractive to the vulgar public. We could accuse some of these arbiters of politically correct politicking of being like Grantland Rice – the guys and gals on the professional media teams are going to be there in the pressbox holding forth or typing away regardless of the final score, eh?
The other thing is, was Vince Lombardi “coaching material”?