Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Sporting Look at Politics

Politicians who wonder why voters pay so little attention to them should consider this business called baseball and the remarkable effect it has on fans. We fans may not show much interest in the posturing that usually passes for politics these days. But give us some talented competitors who are willing to play hard, risk failure, and not check their humanity in the consultants’ office, and you just may get an audience.
   Elizabeth Auster, The Plain Dealer
   Interest in American politics is at an all-time low and falling. Besides a few C-SPAN junkies and a handful of journalists, hardly anyone can name his senators and representative.
   New records for campaign spending are set every November. Yet, as the cost of electioneering rises, the number of people going to the polls falls. There must be a reason: maybe it is the special interest groups. Why take time to vote for someone who is only going to kowtow to the lobbyists and pressure groups?
   Sports, on the other hand, are more popular than ever. There seems to be no limit on how much the average fan will spend to watch athletes compete. Rising ticket prices have paralleled increasing attendance.
   Why is this so? The average professional athlete is every bit as unsavory as the average politician. He is greedy and uncaring. He preaches fan loyalty, but sells himself to the highest bidder at the first sign of free agency. Even athletes who struggle to achieve mediocrity earn more in a year than the average Joe or Jo hopes to make in decade.
   Could the problem be with the media? Interest in national affairs might increase if the press covered politics the way it covers sports. To wit:

  AGE stumbles again, tripped up by CASH, 65-31

   WASHINGTON, DC – Senator William Ondatake bobbled the procedural ball in a key Senate match-up today, allowing the Caring Association of Surgical Hospitals (CASH) to score a 65-31 victory over Americans for Geriatric Empowerment (AGE).
   CASH fell behind in the early going, and AGE, which has struggled all year, looked like it was about to upset the CASH juggernaut. But Ondatake, AGE’s ace, who’s crafty play frustrated CASH well into the second half, tired as session wore on. Then, on the final procedural vote, a vote that would have secured the win for AGE, the veteran Ondatake made a rookie mistake. And with that, the momentum shifted and CASH cashed in.
   “I don’t what Ondatake was thinking,” said Robert S. Rules, the AGE manager. “When you buy a vote, you expect the seller to know how to use it.”
   It was AGE’s fifth straight loss in Senate action, and the group has garnered just three wins in 25 legislative tilts this season. And AGE is a 17 vote underdog in next week’s scrap with Citizens Really Angry with Social Security (CRASS).
   Today’s loss raises questions about Ondatake’s future with AGE. C-SPAN reports that Ondatake will have to choose between going to the Youngstown City Council of the Class B Rust Belt League, or accepting his unconditional release.
   Barry Scamartist, AGE’s director of legislative operations, would not comment directly on the report. “We signed Ondatake because we needed an impact senator, someone we could count on to contribute immediately,” Scamartist said. “Once bought, Bill stays bought, but he hasn’t helped us buy anyone else.”
   The feisty Ondatake is not willing to take the blame for AGE’s disappointing season. “I give 110-percent every time I walk on to the Senate floor,” he said. “You just can’t win in the Senate with minor-league talent. CASH lavishes senators with money for the votes it gets. AGE can’t match them, and we’re outgunned every time.”
   AGE does have some young talent in its organization, but most of its heavy hitters have been traded or lost through free agency, as cash-strapped AGE tries to trim costs.
   “The Senate is “The Show,” Ondatake said. “If AGE wants to win at this level, it’s got to be willing to spend. Senators don’t sell their votes for nothing, you know.”
   The cost of running a major-league lobby has skyrocketed in the last 10 years, and that worries fans of the legislative game. It has become very difficult for the less well-heeled organizations to compete.
   Scamartist says smaller special interest groups such as AGE have difficulty attracting young politicians and keeping them on their rosters. “We search the boonies, find a talented youngster, sign him and cloud his moral judgment. Then he goes and has a couple good years and signs a multi-million dollar deal we can’t match.”
   It’s not that simple according to I.M. Justly-Rich, president of the Citizens Organized and United for Gasping and Hacking (COUGH), winner of last season’s Legislative Cup. “It’s a matter of pride,” he said. “Who wants to live in a country where government officials can be bought for a few hundred thousand?”
   Justly-Rich says the Major Legislative Leagues are an excellent example of traditional American values. “We’re a free market operation,” he said. “If the small market teams can’t compete, it’s because that’s the way a free market economy is supposed to work.” He says legislative teams that can’t make it should be sold to interests that have the financial wherewithal to compete.
   “This is America,” Scamartist said. “And we, the people who own the lobbying teams, are the rich and powerful, and that’s why we’re special. We deserve to have the best government our money can buy.”
   In a related development, Justly-Rich says he will move COUGH to Ottawa if voters don’t approve funding for a new capitol. He told reporters that the Canadians have promised to build a 70.000 seat Parliamentary arena. Informed sources say COUGH and other lobbying teams will split all revenue generated by the new Parliament’s luxury boxes, concessions and parking. In return for moving its operations to the taxpayer-built palace, COUGH will get a sweetened television package and tax-free status in perpetuity.
   “Sure we’re Americans,” Justly-Rich said. “When it’s profitable.”
   This originally appeared in Satire, Spring 1996

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