COLUMN: Playing Through Politics, On The Field And In The Capital
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 01:10
We nearly saw the day when the federal government was the Boston College football team’s arch nemesis.
Most weeks, the Eagles prepare to duel with some of college football’s best out on the gridiron—and this week shouldn’t have been any different. Yet no revitalized attack defense or strong running game could have contained the dysfunctional cast of characters we all too generously call “Congressmen” and “Mr. President.”
Their continuing squabble over the Affordable Care Act and growing disagreement on a delayed short-term spending plan (which has caused a shutdown, in case you haven’t already heard from the myriad of Facebook statuses and cable news diatribes) threatened BC’s first official Homecoming game in years. Why? Well, the Eagles’ opponent just so happens to be Army, which was nearly unable to make the trip to Alumni Stadium this Saturday because of the budgetary squabble.
FSU’s Jameis Winston might be good, but at least he lets his opponents take the field first.
As Washington seems unable to keep its problems from spreading like a disease, President Barack Obama and his Congressional cohorts lead us to question whether “the pursuit of happiness” still includes the right to enjoy college athletics. Their spoken platitudes and sound bites rival the credibility of a shouting match between five-year-olds, so I insist that we describe their situation using proper rhetoric. Let’s speak in terms that can be appreciated.
Let’s talk football.
If you focus long enough on Congress and the President, they start to resemble a dysfunctional college football offense. As they have the natural wit of career Washington politicians (which is no wit at all), let’s assume they call themselves “Team America.”
Congress serves as the backfield, the receiving corps, and the offensive line—and struggles at all three spots. It talks a good talk and remembers the days when it was a hotshot back home, but these Congressional players can’t muster the on-field cohesion of even the worst Pee Wee squad. Team America’s linemen put up blocks to protect their quarterback when it’s most convenient for them, while its receivers run wrong routes on purpose for the sole reason of making their signal-caller look bad.
I would also mention the running game, but usually Team America’s backs don’t budge from their spot in the backfield even when called upon on for a last minute fourth-and-goal with the game tied.
The quarterback is none other than the President, a guy who fans hoped would pan out to be a Heisman Trophy contender. He entered the college scene lacking experience as a starter, but the public believed he was capable of taking the next step.
Unfortunately, they were wrong.
He looks sharp in practice and woos sportswriters with eloquent speeches at press conferences, but his act ends on game day. It’s clear that Team America’s quarterback is not respected by his teammates, and oftentimes for good reason. He leads from behind rather than taking charge out in front, pushing the blame onto everyone but himself when things go awry.
The big ideas and sweeping changes he has for the offense look convincing in a playbook, but don’t translate to tangible success on the field. This quarterback refuses to admit when he’s made the wrong decision—he’d rather punish his own teammates and fans by sticking with a bad play than make an adjustment. For him, the other 10 guys and their opinions in the huddle don’t even exist.
Each game is planned as a one-man show, and it fails. As a result, Mr. President is a losing quarterback on a struggling team.
The government wants to keep opponents off the gridiron because it wouldn’t stand a chance in a helmet and shoulder pads.
Both the President and Congress can learn a lot from the teams they threatened to keep off the field on Saturday. Look at the visiting sideline, and you see an Army squad comprised of young men dedicated to serving their country after graduation—football players today, defenders of our freedom tomorrow. Their commitment to this country and willingness to sacrifice speak much more than the hollow bickering that comes from Washington.
And on the home sideline stands a BC team whose head coach and players don’t buy into the excuse making of “moral victory” and settling for stalemates. They put their bodies on the line for each other day in and day out so that the program can improve and a tradition of excellence can be restored.
These two football programs don’t philosophize about commitment, teamwork, and leadership.
They live it.