(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Friday, October 29, 2004

Why Sean Taylor's DWI Could Have an Effect on the Presidential Election

Since 1936, the result of the last Washington Redskins' home game before a presidential election has been an accurate predictor of the victor of the presidential election. If the home team wins, the incumbent party wins the presidential election. For example, in 2000, the Tennessee Titans beat the Washington Redskins in the last 'Skins home game before the election, and George Bush beat Al Gore.

Fast forward to today, and you have the Redskins hosting Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. The favored Green Bay Packers, that is, except for the fact that since the spread is so small, you wonder if we should allow a margin for error the way the pollsters do. Which would mean, of course, that this game could be a dead heat.

The Redskins come into the game with the NFC's stingiest defense (which is somewhat Republican in nature), so the question is how the team will fare without rookie safety Sean Taylor, whose driving escapades and unfortunate interactions with police compelled Redskins' coach Joe Gibbs to inactivate him for Sunday's game (were he in Oakland, he'd probably be featured in the pre-game show and were he playing for a superstitious Republican-leaning coach, he'd probably serve his suspension after the presidential election). To make matters worse, star LB LaVar Arrington and long-range kicker Jon Hall are doubtful for Sunday's contest.

The Pack has the second-best offense in the NFC (the Democrats have always been accused of being flashier, as there are only "Republican cloth coats" and not Democratic versions), and the Skins' offense is third from the bottom. The Pack is worried about its run defense, so look out for how much Joe Gibbs will run Clinton Portis into the Packer defensive line. It looks like it all boils down to whether the explosive Green Bay offense can make a dent in a weakened Washington defense, and whether a balky Green Bay defense can hold off an equally questionable Redskins' offense.

Which is why the spread is so close. There are so many metaphors available for both political parties that I'll skip them, as there are so many blogs to click onto regarding the upcoming presidential election that I won't comment on who I think will prevail.

The cliches, however, are hard to resist. Offense does sell tickets, defense does win championships, a good defense can be a good offense, and, well, advanced societies are supposed to shed themselves of superstitions in the first place.

But people in this country and elsewhere do look for signs well beyond those that appear in an M. Night Shymalan film. Does the breaking of the Curse of the Bambino transcend hotly contested rivalries on a baseball diamond? For example, does that victory suggest that even a Democrat from Massachusetts of all places can win the White House again after all the Democrats who have tried since John F. Kennedy have been beaten to a bloody pulp? Or, would the Republicans counter that the Red Sox won only because of the courage and conviction of a true leader (and not-so-closeted Republican), Curt Schilling, who bucked up under adversity to lead his team to the promised land?

Similarly, would a win by Green Bay, placed atop the BoSox' triumph (which occurred on the night of a lunar eclipse), help signify that John Kerry somehow will gather enough momentum to eke out wins in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Jersey to give him the White House? Or would it just mean that the Cheeseheads bested the goofballs who sit in drag in the Redskins' stadium? Or, perhaps, that Clinton Portis had a better day than anyone (and everyone) else?

Conversely, would a win by the Redskins give George W. Bush the same omen that the Red Sox' win gave John Kerry, thereby effectively cancelling out any kharma that the Democratic standard bearer might have received from the Red Sox' improbable run? Would Karl Rove be jumping for joy at, say, a Mark Brunell plunge up the gut with two minutes to go in regulation to give the Redskins the game? Will President Clinton fire-up the low-calorie, fat-free nachos while tuning up his satellite dish to cheer on Brett Favre? And, of course, will either party try to tamper with the result by challenging the eligibility of players on either team, interfering with their telephone signals to the coaches up in the press box, or trying to water down the turf before the game begins? The possibilities are endless.

But is this football record the one that matters? Or is it better to compare the record of the football team from Kerry's neck of the woods against the team from Bush's neck of the woods? The former, the New England Patriots, are the incumbents in a sense, the defending Super Bowl champions, and they are undefeated. The latter, the Houston Texans, are 3-3 (and the Dallas Cowboys, for that matter, are 2-4). So, based upon comparative performances of home-state teams in the two national pastimes, baseball and football, is John Kerry the favorite? Are sports results so significant that they'll foretell who will win?

Or, do we revert to the superstition that things, of whatever shape, come in threes, and that Kerry is due because outside of winning a presidential election, the two toughest things to win are a Super Bowl and a World Series. If that's the case, then, is Massachusetts ready for a Hat Trick? A Triple Crown?

All I know is that what happens on Tuesday looks like a real horse race to me.

And if Brett Favre throws a few TD passes, the Redskins fans and Republicans everywhere only will wish that Sean Taylor had a designated driver so he could have been in the secondary to knock down a pass or two. But if Clinton Portis runs wild, he'll get invited to a state dinner, and those elephant-pin wearing pols will fete him well past election day.

Have fun watching on Sunday, although the better action may come on Tuesday night.