Sunday, April 24, 2016

A brief, largely pointless reverie

So one of the followers/followed on my Twitter feed (a rather select group, alas) posited an interesting question yesterday, and the Blob (as it often does) has decided to give it more thought than it's probably worth.

The question: How would the coverage of politics be different if sportswriters did it? And wouldn't it be fun to try it for one election cycle?

Well ,.. yes, Yes, it would.

I mean, just think how sportswriters would have handicapped the Lincoln-Douglas Debates ("Mr. Douglas has no chance. Mr. Lincoln will simply post him up on the low blocks and crush him with indisputable logic. And when Douglas tries to rebut and get to the tin, Lincoln, the best rim protector in the game, will simply send it back the other way. 'Divide this house, loser'!")

And then there's the delicious notion of how they would have handled various presidential races.

And so come along with me now to those thrilling days of never-year, when sportswriters took over various election years and made them their own ...

The Republican National Convention, 1924. The Repubs are demonstrating on the convention floor,, quietly and politely, as befits the candidate they've just chosen, Calvin Coolidge.

Up in the pressbox, Grantland Rice feeds a sheaf of paper into his typewriter and hammers out this: "Outlined against a blue-gray sky, the Four Horseman rode again. OK, so just one horseman. OK, so he's not on a horse. OK, so it's Calvin Coolidge, who's kind of like a horse, in that he doesn't say a whole lot, and when he does you have to lean in close to hear him, and you immediately regret it because it really wasn't worth the effort."

Or ...

The night of the 1944 election. All around the country, the nation's sportswriters, temporarily re-assigned because all the baseball players are off fighting Hitler and Tojo, are describing to the nation FDR's fourth term.

"For a record fourth straight time, FDR has been elected President," they write. "It's a dynasty  rivaling that of the Yankees, and potentially as damaging to the election process. Is such dominance good for the game, er, nation? Why can't anyone compete with him? Is this an indictment of the weakness of American politics that the best opposing teams, er, parties can come up with is sad old uninspiring Tom Dewey? Or Alf Landon, the St. Louis Browns of presidential candidates? Where are the 1929 Athletics, er, 1904 Teddy Roosevelts? Where are the Lincolns? FDR has made of the game, er, political process, a sham. Might as well just pencil him in for '48, too."

Or ...

The night of the 1960 election. John F. Kennedy has defeated Richard Nixon by the narrowest of margins. Republican beat writers are outraged.

"We are outraged," they write. "What a horrible job by the election officials, particularly in Illinois. No election should ever be decided by an official's mistake. It cheapens the game, er, the American political system, and makes suspect the entire enterprise. Who's running this show, the 1919 Black Sox? Was that Eddie Cicotte manning the polling places in Chicago? And why can't the American political system find better officials? These guys, particularly in Illinois, belong in the minors, tallying county council races. It makes one all but mention the unmentionable: Bring on instant replay!"


Election night, 2016. The nation, losing its mind completely, has elected The Game Show Host to the highest office in the land. As President-elect Trump brags and blusters and leers at his bewitched minions, Joe Buck -- channeling his father, Jack -- puts it all in perspective.

"I don't believe what I just saw!" he cries.

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