Politics of the Playground by: Andy Reuss

Most of us were children once. Of those that were, many played sports during recess. Whether it was on the court, the field, or the diamond, we were exposed to different kinds of people, different kinds of players. The children we met playing sportsball are very like the adults we know today. Tenacious or docile, careful or careless, the broad spectrum of man can be found on the playground. Politicians in particular have barely strayed from their schoolyard games: after all, how is their pouting, unfair play, or time-wasting any different from that which occurs on the blacktop? Politicians –corrupt and honorable alike– parallel boyhood basketball stereotypes.

The first sort of kid is the bully. He is big, he is strong, and he knows it. But he’s not very athletic. He’s just large, and uses his obtuse size to push others around. The bully plays for the sake of feeling included. He doesn’t want to play by the rules, and often cheats to win or pursue attention. There lies the one redeeming thing about the bully: he can help win. With size, the desire to garner attention, and … size, the bully can assist any team in winning. In politics, the bully is the loudest and most obnoxious person speaking. They desire attention and do whatever they can to garner it (often making people want to smack them in the process). Thankfully, the media acts as a teacher, catching them saying things they would rather others not hear. In contemporary politics, one might think of a certain individual from Delaware: with his classic technique of “open mouth, insert foot,” Joe Biden plays the unathletic, undiplomatic bully to a T.

Next, we find the “Ice Man.” This kid is smooth, from his trendy clothes to his on-court attitude. He’s pretty good, and he knows it. This kid has been playing basketball for years, goading himself with visions of grandeur and greatness. While his talent is unquestionable, his performance is lacking. He doesn’t share the ball. He doesn’t always go for the right shot. In many cases, his stubbornness and the resulting lack of success turn his friends against him. Pride gets in the way of his perception of error. While this could also describe many politicians, only the most gloriously erroneous can compare. What is the problem? It doesn’t matter. Is there even a problem? It doesn’t matter. He’s the one to do the job, for better or for worse. And when he misses the layup at the end of the fourth quarter, it’s probably just the referee’s fault for not giving him enough time. Sound familiar? President Obama likes to take the shot, but doesn’t like to admit it when he misses.

Finally, we have those kids who are good, know they’re good, but still play as a team. Who doesn’t love the guy who can shoot just as well as he can pass the ball to others? A true athlete and a winner, the ideal schoolyard basketball player is the one with whom everyone wants to play. He doesn’t cheat, but he does whatever else needs to be done to lead his team to victory. This ability is the result of long hours of practice, thought, and a pinch of natural talent. Thankfully, politicians like this exist. The best of them are called ‘statesmen’ or ‘leaders.’ Famous or not, such politicians are essential to the America of free-throws and backboards. They keep order and preserve the rights of those they govern, much like the star players drive the action and maintain the fun of competition. With any luck, the dynamic Romney-Ryan duo will fit this bill for our country.

The final parallel between playground basketball and the political arena is choosing teams. While the players themselves can vary, it is our job to pick them. We captains have the choice. To win, we must make the right one.

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