“The Big Game” was this weekend. A hundred million or so people of all races, genders, ages, creeds and sexual orientations from Nome, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, to Bangor, Maine, to Monterey, California, and everywhere in between were drawn together, like moths to a plasma screen TV, to tune in to “the most watched TV event in America.”
What is it about the Super Bowl? Why does it cause so many of us, even those who don’t really understand the game, to suspend our Sunday scaries and partake in this most sacred ritual of pounding domestic beers, Buffalo chicken wings, and seven-layer dip, partying like there’s no company-wide conference call bright and early Monday morning? (A DraftKings poll finds that “an estimated 17 million people miss work the day after the Super Bowl, adding up to about $4 billion in lost productivity for companies.”)
Well, for one thing, any excuse for drinks and snacks is a good excuse. And secondly, football is fun. It satiates a natural human appetite for justice and provides a much needed and highly entertaining diversion. In a mad, unpredictable world, football is — or was, before an encroachment penalty was committed by the woke warriors — a refreshing escape to a place where things make sense. Rules are enforced. Fairness prevails. Hard work and sharp strategy are rewarded. The bigger, stronger, faster guys win — unless they’re outplayed by the small guys who hustle harder or have better teamwork.
Either way, it’s a straightforward process with a clear cause and effect. And though the game’s outcome is out of our control (cheering helps, though, even from the living room, I swear!), there’s comfort to be found in a basic contest of “good” (the Pittsburgh Steelers) and “evil” (the Baltimore Ravens) that unfolds in a gratifyingly linear way. And despite “bleeding” different team colors, even the most diehard rivals can cross party lines and enjoy game day in a display of unity that puts our politicos to shame.
Fantasy football takes “entertaining diversion” to a whole new level by enabling fans to curate their own teams with real NFL players, keep track of their statistics in weekly games, and trade players based on their performances. The better the players on your imaginary team do in real-life games, the more points you score, and vice-versa.
I remember driving through some nowheresville place on one of our family road trips as a kid. My father was feverishly scanning the AM radio stations for Rush Limbaugh (it was during the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and El Rushbo’s spot-on Slick Willy impression was seared into my juvenile brain). Yet all the radio picked up was a sports talk show, with a pair of middle-aged men in a heated debate over how likely it was that Randy Moss would break an NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown and whether his forty-yard dash time at the NFL Combine was 4.24 or 4.28 seconds and which shoelace he would tie first during the first preseason game.
My father, exasperated, remarked how much different our country would be if people put as much effort into learning about and obsessing over the intricacies of politics as they do with sports.
This off-hand comment stuck with me. I’m reminded of it every time I encounter the impressive memory and dedication of Cris Collinsworth. Also when I hear stats like this: fantasy football is a billion-dollar industry, with some 60 million American participants alone (and millions more in Nigeria, Guatemala, the Philippines and elsewhere).
It seems, then, that if we really want to end the political divisiveness plaguing our country, we would be wise to infuse some of the elements of fantasy sports into our electoral process.
Fantasize this for a minute: let’s say America’s success is rooted in the principles of conservatism: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and personal freedom. To “win” the peace and prosperity game, we must lower the tax burden, eliminate burdensome red tape that hampers innovation and industry, stop wasting money we don’t have on worthless projects and socially damaging entitlement programs, and respect our individual rights enshrined by the Constitution.
Your Fantasy Politics “league” is the US Congress. In the name of partisanship, you draft to your team a mix of RINOs, progressive Dems, right-wing radicals, and “moderates.”
In the first term, Senator Chris Murphy sponsors a bill that infringes on the Second Amendment. Minus two points. Senator Joe Manchin votes against a $2 trillion social-climate spending bill. Plus four points. Senator Roger Wicker threatens to nuke Russia. Minus two points. Representative Steve Scalise sounds the alarm on the “America Competes Act,” laden with pork. Plus one point. Senator John Kennedy uses a series of Foghorn Leghorn zingers to verbally blitz and sack a Democratic nominee during a Senate Judiciary Hearing. Plus as many points as possible.
You get the drift. In this fantastical land in which constituents actually have some control over how the officials they elect behave once they get to the Swamp, we can “bench” a player by removing his or her committee appointments. We “cut” a player by not re-electing that person. And yes, if you’re wondering, someone who repeatedly drops the ball on foreign policy, makes incoherent play calls, challenges the ruling on the field when no penalty has been called, and sends in a linebacker when his team has possession of the ball would not keep his head coaching position for long.
Of course “Fantasy Politics” is merely a playful figment of this writer’s imagination, and many will say, “Politics is too important to be treated so frivolously.” But should it be? If government retained the size and scope the Founding Fathers prescribed, we should conceivably be able to judge our leaders based on a few simple statistics. The problem is that Big Brother’s power has grown to such an immense level that his influence is felt in every area of our lives — affecting even the gravest matters of life and death.
Victor Davis Hanson wrote upon the passing of Rush Limbaugh that the radio legend was “an American genius,” “deadly effective” in fighting both the left and the Republican establishment. Limbaugh was also “a gifted mimic, an impersonator…a master comedian. His pauses, intonations, and mock tones were far funnier than those of our contemporary regulars on late-night television.” Though he clearly appreciated the potentially devastating ramifications of a corrupt government, Limbaugh often kept things upbeat and fun, more like a game to be taken lightly than the doom-and-gloom, sensationalist approach favored by so many Rush wannabes these days.
There’s a reason he garnered 15 million listeners each week and was so instrumental in influencing not just the conservative movement but American politics as a whole. Oh, and by the way, Rush got his start in sports radio and was a lifelong football fanatic.