Newmann: A sporting chance
June is usually a terrific time of the year. School vacations start, family trips are in the pipeline — and the lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us (we’ll take lazy but would be happy to skip the “hazy” part this summer).
June is also a major pro sports month. Baseball is in full swing (no pun intended), both the NBA and the NHL postseasons are wrapping up, the PGA Tour — and its new nemesis, the LIV — continue to tee off and, in the tennis world, Wimbledon is approaching. And these are just a few of the sports on offer this month.
June is also the month of some other competitive games known as the political primaries. Both major teams are out in full force to back their players. A slew of candidates, in a multitude of states, are making their pitches as to why we should pick them to represent us (or, at least, some of us) in the November general elections. Just the thought of November on these warm sunny June days conjures up images of cold and dark mornings. So, for now, let’s leave the idea of November (and the craziness that can ensue in that month) … until November.
Meanwhile, as we follow our favorite sports teams in the warmth of June, we have definite expectations of many of the athletes. Will they be able to consistently hit with runners in scoring position? Can they sink that 3-pointer to start a rally? Are they able to deke the goalie on a breakaway and score?
Lots of pressure on these folks. Their previous heroics are often forgotten in the crucible of the immediate situation. And their actions are put under immediate — and in some cases — relentless scrutiny. But maybe that just comes with the territory: they’re being paid vast sums of money to play a game, often in front of thousands of in-person fans and millions more watching on TV. And the expectations can be, to put it mildly, high.
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The athletes’ actions are out there for everyone to see. And to judge. And their actions are replayed and rehashed and analyzed ad infinitum. Pretty hard to sweep performance under the rug or otherwise dismiss it. To their credit, most players make themselves readily available for media interviews after their heroics — or failures — in games. And they’re generally very candid in their responses to questions (often repetitive) about their own and/or their team’s–performance. Maybe that’s just accountability. Or honesty.
The willingness to be straightforward is one aspect that differentiates many athletes from a multitude of the players in the campaign games. Whether incumbents or wannabes, quite a few of the “primary” folks are very skilled at caging answers. And in using lots of double speak. Where athletes’ performances are out in the open, there’s much more stuff lurking in the shadows on the campaign trails. But there’s a tendency to overlook the inconsistencies, to dismiss the jumbled rhetoric … and to all too often think, “Well, that’s just politics.”
And so it may be.
But the irony is that we seem to have more expectations of our sporting heroes than of our politicians. And that situation doesn’t seem to be a game-winner.
Tom Newmann splits his time between Edwards and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.