Sports and Politics: Having a Special Place Together in this World

On Nov. 4, I will push aside the curtain of my voting booth and, with pen in hand, write in which candidate I want to see in office. I am going to vote for the “Blue Party.” No, not the Obamacan blue party. The Dodger Blue party.
I want to see Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez in office come inauguration day. I want to see President Torre put on a mean squeeze play against Russia if necessary. I definitely want to see “Manny-being-Manny” at a press conference in the White House. I want to see a thing like Babe Ruth’s birthday be made into a national holiday.
But that is only a fantasy, and for a good reason.
Sports and politics keep a safe distance, for the most part. However, there is always that slight and sometimes heavy influence one may play on the other. Let’s start with the most recent example.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama has taken a keen approach to his day-to-day campaign and uses his free time to play a little basketball. It serves as exercise and relaxation for him and his campaign team. That is a minor detail, but it displays how sports can potentially influence, in a minor way, one of the most powerful men in the world.
But a big influence from the sports world that Obama does utilize every moment of his day is his right-hand man, Reggie Love. Love, 26, recently graduated from Duke University after playing on both the football and basketball teams. Love was a standout off the bench for Coach “K” and is now getting ally-oops from Obama, literally. Love is a staple on Obama’s pickup team.
Love is not necessarily an example of sports influencing politics, but he displays how one is connected to the other. The Obama campaign has had open support from professional athletes across the country. The Lakers’ own Jordan Farmar donated to and openly supported Obama at a rally in Newport Beach a few months ago.
But Obama is not the only candidate using sports to get some leverage. The Republican campaign has stressed the connection that a voter may make with sports, and used it as a tag line. Anyone heard of the phrase “Hockey Mom”? The Bush campaign did the same thing in ’04. Using the terms “Nascar Dad” and “Soccer Mom” to help voters relate is nothing new. They take a simple sports-related image and hope it attracts or makes a connection with the voters. That is an easy example of how sports can influence political activity.
But what about something on an international stage?
The Summer Olympics in Bejiing was an opportunity for China to present itself as a country with a culture of progress, in order to improve the way the world saw them. They put years of planning and large amounts of money into the Olympic Games, the biggest sporting event in the world, to solidify the legitimacy of their government, and I would have to think it worked. It has no direct political influence on my life of course, but China achieved what they set out for: to use the influence of sports to adjust the how the world viewed them.
But there is a bad side or better yet a gray area when it comes to political involvement in sports. The steroid issue in baseball was heavily impacted by the government’s involvement. For example, Mark McGwire was America’s hero one day and a few years later was being subpoenaed by Congress. Barry Bonds has had federal investigators on him for years now (not that I mind, of course).
But is that type of government influence necessary or wanted in the sports world? I tend to think it is not. I just don’t really like how intertwined the two have become. Sports are there for me to enjoy. Politics are there for me to take a side. I like the idea of one influencing the other in positive ways, but other than that I feel like they should stay a safe distance apart.
Unless, of course, my boys Torre and Ramirez make a jump in the polls this week.
Don’t believe the hype; believe the Hypothesis.