The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Presidential Campaign and Baseball

Now that I've just finished taking both sides on whether the Marlins trade with the Dodgers was a good deal for the Fish – either in the short term or the long term, I figured it would be a good time to get into politics. Normally we don't do that here, but I came across something recently that I thought was worth commenting on, particularly since it is not just politics, but rather an intersection of sports and politics.The quoted text below comes from the current issue of ESPN the Magazine (the one with Eric Gagne on the cover). You should really subscribe to it or run out to your bookstore to buy it. In the current issue, Peter Keating asks John Kerry a few questions about sports (for those of you who are so baseball and blog-centric, John Kerry is running for President, and there's going to be an election to decide the whole thing in November). While I'm among the few who hasn't made up his or her mind yet about who to vote for in November and this article won't sway my opinion one way or the other, I still found some of Kerry's answers to be interesting. Here we go…

ESPN the Magazine's Peter Keating: Have you ever bet money on sports?

John Kerry, Democratic nominee for President: No. I mean, I'll bet with a friend, BU vs. BC, things like that, Harvard – Yale, senator vs. senator n the Super Bowl, but no big deal. I prefer the competition. I think sports is a great metaphor for life. A friend of mine and I were going to write a book once. We used to sit in the car driving – he was my driver when I was lieutenant governor, and we used to play hockey together – and we had this fantasy of doing a coffee table book of sports clichés. Real ones, going from the beginning of a season to the end, and taking all the moments and just quoting them throughout the book.

And you would get everything – "our backs are against the wall," "It's all or nothing," "You gotta give 110% to this game" – every cliché you've ever heard. It would be fun. Especially when they're real.

Mike's analysis: No… I mean yes. I love the flip-flopping. Too bad Keating didn't follow that up with something like, "Did you report your sports betting winnings on your income taxes?" I'm sure Senator Kerry would have given us a mouthful about that. It's interesting too how Kerry took a question about betting on sports\and deftly turned his answer into something about a coffee table book about sports clichés. Not only that, but we're supposed to believe that Senator Kerry was interested in writing such a book with his chauffer. That's the part that's beyond belief to me. And that's one weird "fantasy" too. I'm leaving that alone though.

ESPN: What's your worst moment in sports?

Kerry: I was in Fenway in '75 when I was in law school. I was there two nights in a row and I was there in '86, Shea Stadium. Yessir, I was 30 yards from Billy Buckner, right on the first base line.

Would Mookie have been safe even if Buckner had fielded the ball?

Kerry: Oh God, I don't know. I just know we had popped a bottle of champagne and were jumping up and down. We were ready to go. That was the worst moment in sports, '86.

Mike's analysis: This is definitely the first time that I've ever heard a Red Sox fan (and possibly anyone really), tell a story about the 1975 World Series and fail to mention Carlton Fisk's game winning home run in game six (you know, the one where he waived it fair the whole way down the first baseline - exactly, now you remember it). I suppose though that in an interview it could be easy to skip over something like that, particularly as you're searching for your answer off the top of your head as the questions are coming at you, but it still struck me as odd. After reading it a second time though, I wonder if Senator Kerry is even talking about the World Series. He isn't very specific. He just says that he was "in" Fenway in 1975. That happens to be a year in which the Red Sox participated in a World Series (one of the most memorable of all time), but he doesn't exactly come out and say that he was there at the games. He does say that he was at Fenway two nights in a row, but for all we know that could have been to just hang out or to go to a bar across the street.

The answer about the 1986 World Series blows my mind though. Maybe Senator Kerry is speaking figuratively when he says that he was at Shea Stadium and popped a bottle of champagne as the ball rolled towards Buckner. Granted, stadium security has changed greatly since September 11th, but I don't ever recall being able to take a bottle of champagne into the ballpark (or knowing anyone who would have wanted to anyway). Even if it was allowed, I can't imagine being a Red Sox fan and taking a celebratory bottle into the enemy territory of Shea Stadium. I would think that bottle would more likely be used as a weapon against you than as something you could celebrate with.

There's a lot more to the interview, but you'll have to buy ESPN the Magazine to read it. I really hope that ESPN does a similar interview with President Bush. That too could prove to be pretty entertaining, or it could turn into a debacle of "why did you trade Sammy Sosa?" questions and rhetoric about steroids in baseball. I'd still like to see it though.

Since we're talking politics today (or at least I am), what's up with these polls? Everyone's talking about how the Democratic convention did or didn't give John Kerry a spike in the polls. For one, aren't these polls outdated? Who do the pollsters talk to anyway? Think about it – if one of them calls you at home tonight, are you going to talk to them? Probably not – or at least that's what I'm guessing. I'm a little afraid of what kind of people they actually get on the phone to give their opinions on things like this. Even if everyone who they called did give their honest take on things and they really were voters, is it still a representative sampling of the populace? I don't have a home phone anymore – I'm completely cell phone oriented. Since cell phone numbers aren't listed, I think that makes me unreachable for these pollsters. And I'm not alone. A lot of my friends (people who vote too) don't have home phones – just cell phones. How do they reach us? How do they know that the people with home phones vote like us?

More importantly though, I question how effective these polls can really be. They seem to survey between 750 and a 1,000 people nationwide. Granted, that can be a big enough sample size if it's representative enough to be a fair estimation for our nation of 300 million people (or so). However, I think what we all learned with the 2000 election is how important the electoral college system can be. Someone (like Al Gore in 2000) can win the majority or plurality of the popular vote, but not win the election. The election can come down to who wins the big states and by how much. This year's race seems to be so close between Bush and Kerry that I'm not sure that a nationwide poll tells the story of what will happen come November.

The scary thing though is that these polls can have an impact on the election. People here that so-and-so is winning or losing and that makes them want to go out and vote (because they want to make their guy win or lose) or stay home (because they think it's already decided). I hope you don't do that though. I hope you go out and find out more about President Bush and Senator Kerry (and the other folks who also might be on the ballot in your state) and then you vote in November. I don't particularly care who you vote for. Heck, maybe you'll even vote for Mr. Vermin Love Supreme of the Misinformed Citizens of America (he took a nice picture). Get informed, vote your conscience, and don't let someone/something else influence your vote.

I'm Mike and I approved this message.

P.S. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry have "blogs" attached to their official websites. They really seem to be biased propaganda machines, but they are pretty funny.

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