Baseball And The State Of Politics

Minneapolis, MN, USA: Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis walks off the field after grounding out against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

If you're like the average American, you don't understand that much about politics. You do understand a lot about sports, though, so it helps when politicians come into your comfort zone.

One of my primary regrets in life is that I don't know that much about American politics. I don't know enough about the people, I don't know enough about the history, and while I have my assortment of opinions, the majority of them are most certainly under-informed. I'm relatively politically ignorant, and I know a ton about baseball. At this point, I have to know a ton about baseball, because it's my job, but I set myself on this course. I'm just another voter who doesn't know enough about the issues that he's voting on.

That doesn't make me different -- that makes me more or less average. I'm one of countless people who could probably name more athletes in Washington D.C. than politicians. A big part of that is on us for not putting in the effort to learn more about how this country is run. But some of it is on them for developing a system so utterly repellent. This is a difficult system to want to get to know, and we were just recently provided with a shining example of why.

Given that so many of us are more comfortable with sports, it's helpful when sports can serve as a device to learn about something else. For children, maybe football can help with multiplication. For adults, baseball just provided a window into the toxic way that things are within the political realm. You might've heard that Barack Obama made a joke about Kevin Youkilis to an assembled crowd in Massachusetts. Youkilis went from the Red Sox to the White Sox, Obama roots for the White Sox, haha, jokes, harmless jokes. Sports jokes! A welcome glimpse of personality, and nothing more.

A welcome glimpse of an ugly, unlikable personality, so says the Mitt Romney camp!

In a daily email blast to reporters on Tuesday, Romney press secretary Andrea Saul led off by accusing Obama of having taunted Red Sox fans. She lumped it in with some of the most gut-wrenching setbacks in Red Sox history.

"Maybe the president should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007," she wrote. "Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favorite players at a time when the team is struggling."

Not so, says the Obama camp!

Lest a negative story go unchallenged, enter Jay Carney, the White House press secretary and a big Red Sox fan.

Unprompted, Carney told reporters traveling with the president that there had been some "really silly reporting" about the episode.

I'm not going to take this much deeper, because I'm woefully under-qualified to be writing anything even vaguely political. This might be the first time I've ever written a post that so much as mentioned the name of the president. But consider what we have here. We have a president that made a harmless sports joke before an audience of ideological besties. We have an opposing team (sports term) that immediately criticized the president for his harmless sports joke. We have a presidential team that, in turn, defended the president's harmless sports joke. We have Barack Obama making a nothing joke about a baseball player, and we have that joke becoming a thing.

Everybody, even the most uninformed or oblivious hooligan within the borders, understands that our political system gets stopped up by endless bickering, sensible and senseless. Nary a point goes unchallenged, but much of the time those challenged points pertain to things people might not understand very well. What we have here is a joke about a baseball player that should've been handled like this:

Obama: /Youkilis joke
Romney camp:
Obama camp:
Good joke!

Or, if not like that, then like this:

Obama: /Youkilis joke
Romney camp: Boo, no, bad joke, insensitive joke
Obama camp: lol what the shit

Instead, it was handled like this:

Obama: /Youkilis joke
Romney camp: Boo, no, bad joke, insensitive joke
Obama camp: /fervid defense of joke

The trade of Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox has allowed us to observe in an easily understandable way how the political system functions. It functions by having people latch on to any and every little thing done by a political adversary that might in some way be considered controversial. It goes both ways, with each party doing it to the other. In that way, any thing can become a Thing, and while that doesn't completely prevent progress, it does severely impede it. It's observably ugly, it's observably stupid, and it all serves as a deterrent to trying to know more about local and national government. One's instinct is already to be put off; one's instinct is that, by digging deeper, one might only increase the degree of his dissatisfaction.

A joke. A little joke, about nothing political, nothing meaningful, nothing personal, nothing controversial. When even a joke like that can't slip under the door of partisan politics, there is no space beneath the door, and the door can't open.

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