There is a terrible habit among political writers, one not to be encouraged under any circumstances, to derive symbolism from the events leading up to the World Series of baseball. These symbols are then applied to the Presidential campaign in a pathetic effort to be artistic or humorous or some such nonsense. I for one would never stoop to such a practice, but to illustrate my point let me show you how it is done.
This year's Democrat primary featured a historic Civil War between two Chicagoans, Hillary Clinton née Rodham of solid Cub pedigree vs. Barack Obama, a South Side member of the University of Chicago professoriate whose neighborhood demands White Sox fealty. Strikingly, both the Cubs and the White Sox made it into the playoffs this year, representing the two candidates fighting after other challengers had left the field.
Sure enough, the Cubs were eliminated in three straight games, baseball's version of the three-and-out in football. In parallel fashion, Hillary was roundly defeated. Then the White Sox at least managed to win one game. This signifies Obama's current edge in the polls. But eventually the Tampa Bay Rays left the Sox darning and sewed up the first series. Does this mean that Obama will eventually go ignominiously downhill to utter desolation? Of course not, and only a very crass political pundit would pretend that one thing had anything to do with the other. And yet, it is food for thought…
Ha! Leaving the wishful thinking category behind for a moment, we should take a moment to celebrate the astonishing new champions of the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only had they never played in the postseason before, they had not even won more games in a season than they lost. They began play in 1998, and their best mark in a decade was 70-92, a sorry trail of futility. Suddenly they explode to 97-65, win the League title from the defending champion Red Sox, and will now contend for the world championship with the Phillies. The Bay Rays against the Philly Phillies in the World Series of Alliteration.
Which brings us to another Obama-McCain comparison. The Tampa Bay payroll this years was $45 million, about what John McCain has left to spend on his campaign. The Boston payroll was circa 145 mil, that figure also almost identical with Obama's war chest down the stretch. It would be absurd to suggest that the outspent ball club upending the deep-pockets city slickers could be a harbinger for the election, and so I will certainly suggest no such thing.
What is it about Florida teams in the postseason? This may be one of the oddest statistics of all: no Florida franchise has ever lost a postseason baseball series. The Florida Marlins are 6-0 and the Rays are now 2-0. Perhaps our lifestyle of ease and comfort amid paradisiacal beauty helps us to be less tense on the one hand, more confident on the other. In an election where Florida may decide the Presidency just as it did in 2000, the McCain camp would be well advised to take heart from this… whew, got carried away again.
Back to the nuts and bolts of the baseball match-ups. The Rays have a hitter named Evan Longoria, whose body is positioned in even languor before he swings, unlike most players who like to jump and twitch and coil and spring. He times his stroke perfectly and concentrates all his energy in the precise spot of the ball. This can be the mark of a great campaign, not to flail but to be precise and powerful. Oy, I went there again.
Okay, I confess, I cannot resist. I see the Rays as a perfect metaphor for a campaign of underdogs, unfairly tagged by the performance of prior squads playing under the same banner, short on resources but long on spirit and good will. Now batting for the Tampa Bay Rays, the first baseman, John Sidney McCain. Go Rays!
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