Nothing is more prominent in American culture than our collective love affairs with sports. That’s why the strategists running the nation’s political campaigns work so hard to connect with people’s passion for sporting events, using language and phrases more common to the dugout, the sidelines or the press box. In fact, some prominent ex-coaches are now onboard as political advisors, and their pep talks are becoming legendary for their ability to fire up even the most erudite of politicians.
Does their advice tend to be . . . somewhat clichéd, shall we say? You be the judge.
As election fever peaks, a grizzled old-school coach is addressing a campaign team. Let’s eavesdrop:
“All right, ladies, listen up, ’cause I’m only gonna say this once: Politics is a contact sport. You play to win, whatever it takes. It’s not for the faint of heart. You need to buckle your chinstraps, put on your hard hat, bring your lunch pail to work every single day.
“Getting elected is a fight to the finish. You’ve gotta go the full 12 rounds, get all 27 outs, keep your motor running on every play. You gotta leave it on the field ’til the clock hits zeroes, ’til the gun goes off, ’til the fat lady sings. You’re gonna get your nose bloodied, your uniform dirty, the skin ripped off your elbows and knees. You’ll probably lose a couple of teeth before it’s over, but that’s why they invented dentures.
“Here’s the thing: You take one for the team, because it’s a team game. Everyone needs to be pulling the oars in the same direction, reading off the same page in the playbook, singing in the same key. You gotta stick to the game plan, run the plays that were called, don’t try to do too much. Stay within yourself, let the game come to you, take advantage of your opportunities. Don’t get your signals crossed, jump the snap count, miss your assignment. You can’t get out-muscled, out-hustled, out-physicaled. You can’t free-lance out there, people, go it alone, try to win the game by yourself. You can’t hit a five-run homer or score a ten-point touchdown. That’s what teammates are for.
“It’s real simple, folks: Just stay in your lanes, do your job, pick your pitch, put it in play, move the chains, advance the ball, manage the clock, play the odds, control the tempo, take your shots, work the refs. You want Big Mo on your side, you gotta play smart. Walk before you run. Take what the defense gives you.
“Just make sure you account for the fatigue factor, the experience factor, the X factor. Use your head, but keep it on a swivel. Screw your head on right, and keep it in the game. Don’t hang your head, don’t shake your head, don’t just nod your head. Remember: you win games with your head, because it’s what’s between your ears that counts.
“At the end of the day, scoreboard is all that matters. It’s a numbers games, a game of inches, a matter of seconds. It’s all about field position, blocking and tackling, executing the fundamentals. You have to win the battle in the trenches, dominate the line of scrimmage, wear down your opponents. You gotta play the full 60 minutes, go the whole nine yards, never give up, never give in, never show fear, never feel pain, never act scared, never let ’em see you sweat.
“Remember, your candidate’s a leader, on and off the campaign trail. He's your field general, your playmaker, someone who gets stronger the longer the game goes on. He’s as good as there is in this election, a workhorse, a warrior, someone who can put the team on his back. He’s the real deal, the go-to guy, the clutch player with the heart of a champion.
“But in order to win, you have to tee it up, strike the ball, play the course, not your opponent. Take it one game at a time, one shot at a time, one possession at a time. Stay focused. Don’t look around, don’t look ahead, don’t look back—something might be gaining on you. Don’t underestimate your opponents, don’t look past your opponents, don’t make your opponents out to be bigger than they are. They are what they are, and I don’t care who they are, they put their pants on one leg at a time.
“So lemme leave you with a final thought or two: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The best defense is a good offense. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. There is no ‘I’ in team. A layup counts the same as a dunk. Champions are made, not born. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Coffee is for closers. Only the good die young. Rock ’n roll is here to stay.
“And aloha means goodbye.”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a food-industry journalist, commentator and sportswriter wanna-be.