Instant Replay: Politics as Sport


1. Bringing in the Closer

If the run up to the Nov. 2 midterm elections were a baseball game, we would now be in the top of the ninth.

It's been a close game and the Republicans now are putting forward their best situational pinch hitters -- Tea Party favorites with the potential to knock in a few game-changing runs and, in doing so, roll back some of the sweeping bills Democrats have passed through Congress.

The solution for the Democrats is simple. They need a closer; their best relief pitcher with the ability to make the last few outs of this political game and restore order to the traditionally blue states now at risk of switching hands.

So, who's it going to be?

The president? He is certainly out campaigning; but with a dismal approval rating of 46 percent, he may not be the party's best choice.

Perhaps that's why this week the Democrats brought first lady Michelle Obama out of the bullpen.

With her busy campaign schedule over the next few weeks -- Milwaukee, Denver, Chicago and more -- it is clear that Michelle Obama may be the Democrats' closer.

Will she be a Trevor Hoffman or a Juan Gutierrez? Can she pull off the save?

2. Scapegoat

In sports, a team's losing record may not be the coach or manager's fault, but fans and owners sleep easier once some sort of drastic action has been taken against them, nonetheless.

For Willie Randolph, that moment came in 2008, after the New York Mets sank below .500. Instead of firing any of Randolph's coaches, Mets General Manager Omar Minaya made the somewhat sudden decision to let Randolph himself go because someone big had to take the fall.

Similarly, former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis' 10-year contract was cut short five years early after a losing season in 2009 and the first loss to Navy in a generation. The fact that many of the losses that season were close did little to placate Notre Dame fans and management. They needed a scapegoat.

Incumbent congressmen are this year's political scapegoats.

Reps. Parker Griffith, R-Ala., Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., Bob Ingles, R-S.C., and Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., were all defeated in their primaries this midterm election season.

In the Senate, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and five-term Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., all were ousted, as well.

And the anti-incumbent attitude in the country, it seems, still is not mollified. Rather, the races in Nevada, Kentucky, Washington state and South Carolina are shaping up to be much closer than anyone could have imagined they would be.

Disgruntled voters are in the mood for change and, in the absence of a coach or a manager to fire, the target is on the incumbent's back.

3. The Pick-Off of 'No'

When a quarterback's pass is picked off by the other team's defense, everything changes. The pigskin that was meant to be pulled in safely by his own wide receiver is now in the hands of the enemy. And, just like that, his offense is turned on its heels into his defense.

If you're Michigan's Denard Robinson, you know a thing or two about this because, after accumulating nearly 2,000 yards of jaw-dropping offense in his first five games, all critics seem to be able to focus on are the three picked off passes that he threw against Michigan State last Saturday that cost his team the game.

This election season, the Republicans experienced this phenomenon verbally, when the Democrats tried to intercept the word "no" for their own benefit.

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