For instance, in one episode the show they work on is focused on an Olympic long jumper, Oscar Parrish, who's come close to breaking the world record several times, but each time before he got sidetracked somehow: his father's death, an injury during practice, etc. Finally, at 33, he makes it back to the competition at what is obviously his last chance, he's primed and ready, he jumps, and he's done it. A new world record.
And the 18 year old jumping after him lands a foot further.
The lesson for three characters, Dana, Jeremy, and Dan (in very different situations), is that you can try your hardest, and you can even accomplish the things you have control over, but you can't guarantee how long the fruits of your labor will last because of circumstances outside your control. The time you spend at the top of your personal mountain can be short indeed, so enjoy it while it lasts.
I wish Keith Olbermann would talk more about sports and less about politics, not just because I think he's a better sportscaster than political pundit, but because sports and politics share something in common that I find truly fascinating: often people in the media will use a sports analogy for politics, and in the process they typically use a misreading of sports to give a misreading of politics.
A couple of years ago, for example, there was the example of "doubling down." It was used to describe a tactical move where the president seemed to "double" the amount of effort he was investing in something (I think funding for the surge). The problem is that "doubling down" is what a
With this sports/politics mangling in mind, I read David Brooks' column about Ryne Sandberg's 2005 induction into the Hall of Fame this morning. From that column, a quote from Sandberg's speech:
“I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases.”
Sandberg motioned to those inducted before him, “These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.
Sandberg's point obviously is as more about respecting the game as it was meant to be played, but there's a lot of practical advice in that as well. From what I gather, swinging for the fences is generally a bad thing in baseball except under optimal circumstances. If you send your players out swinging for the fences, what you're most likely to end up with is 3 outs and a very short time at bat. Similarly, when a defense has a really bad inning and allows a ton of runs, it's usually not because they suffered a string of home runs, but rather a long string of base hits. Players who always swing for the fences do so out of misplaced priorities, out of preferencing their stats and sponsorships and spot in the recaps over the success of their team. Sure, they're more likely to get home runs, but they're also more likely to pop out or strike out and, thus, to contribute to their team losing. Politics, like baseball, is a game where incremental gains can quickly lead to an avalanche, and where gaudy, selfish plays are not only unlikely to succeed but can backfire spectacularly.
George W. Bush got a massive influx of political capital after 9/11, and decided to just swing for the fences (make the Middle East democratic). He failed, and it sidelined his domestic agenda for the rest of his first term and sidled him with the bane of 20th century presidents: an unpopular war. He won re-election and swung for the fences again with privatizing Social Security. He failed again, and it doomed his agenda for the remainder of his administration. His failures also contributed substantially to his party losing everything they had won over the last 20 years.
So President Obama, go for the smart play. Don't just go out there swinging for the fences. Get a few base hits, get a couple of fast runners on base. As you've said yourself over and over, this is not about you. It's about your team and your sport and everyone who's affected by it. You've got a lot of things to fix, both big and small, and the political capital you've built up has to last. There will be opportunities to swing for the fences, and some will be early, but smart playing also involves a lot of base hits, stolen bases, smart defense, and a bunt here and there.
*: See Rene's comment for explanation of the fix. The benefit of blogs is that there's always people out there checking your work who know more than you do about the subject.