Monday, January 24, 2011

An overflow of advice without consent

THERE'S A FINE LINE between professional sports and politics, a demarcation that has grown still dimmer these days with the urgent calls to tone down the head butts and trash talk. Calls? In football, our athletic achievers are even being assessed big fines for the appearance of corporal attacks on their opponents. It hasn't reached that pricey stage in politics yet and doubtless never will inasmuch as there isn't that much interest on Capitol Hill for folks to force their "distinguished" colleagues to reach for their wallets over non-violent assaults on their opponents.

Meantime, nothing has demonstrated the link between sports and politics more than the oupouring of advice from the national media on how to score a touchdown or two and what President Obama must do to score points with the public. Throughout the current football playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, miles of copy have been written advising coaches on what they must do to win, or, as it's commonly said, to "put more points on the board." Not that any of this influences the outcome of a game because you can safely assume that a given coach is too busy studying play charts and viewing game films to pay any attention to what the outside world thinks.

That leads us to the flood of advice that many editorial writers and pundits have given to President Obama on what he should say in the State of the Union speech to cheer up sullen constituents in Peoria. No less an authority than the New York Times ran an editorial prepping everyone for the speech (A New Chance for Mr. Obama) with such oratorical directions as telling Americans why job creation and growth are "more important than short-term spending cuts."

Then there was Steven Hayward, a resident scholar at the Conservative American Enterprise Institute, who urged the president to be " more specific and direct than Bill Clinton's famous line declaring that the "era of big government is over." I wonder how many people would remember that if you stopped them on the street. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Hopeful of imperiling any upbeat presidential comments, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, the Tea Party Queen in the House, staged her own defining state of something speech, which led to sotto voce advice from some worried Republicans that could easily be translated into "For God's sake, Michelle, shut up!"

With Obama's rise in the polls (55 pct. approval in the latest CNN tally), shouldn't we assume that he knows how in hell to give a speech without malapropisms? And without everybody telling him to be careful that he doesn't screw it up, or be a fool about the the country's priorities? Of course, he does. But political pundits don't write about pro football, which sort of restricts what they can write about. Besides, I haven't seen a single bit of advice from a sportswriter on what Obama should say about the state of the union. Mention union to the sports world and the only only thing it can come up with is the possible lockout of the gladiators before next season. And to millions of fans, that's something to worry about.

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