January 26, 2008

Politics or Football?

After several days of random conversations and taking the general pulse, I have the strong impression that Americans are not quite as excited about this election process as I had imagined. On television, of course, one sees excited crowds, emotional appeals, and other signs of intensity. But an old friend, recently retired who is well read and always up on the news, and who has time to engage in whatever excites him, told me over coffee that a bit of political fatigue had set in. There have been too many debates between the candidates, too many sound-bites on the news, and worse, none of the candidates on either side seems quite satisfactory.  

I spoke to a women I know well who runs a  small store in central Massachusetts. She has also been an elected official, and her husband won a seat as a town selectman in their last local election. So I assumed she would be excited about one of the candidates, but I was wrong. She has followed the candidates carefully, but now is looking forward to the Green Party's convention, and hopes that they run a strong candidate! And she told me that many people in this little New England town of hers are giving money to Ron Paul. 

When polls tell us in state after state that one third of the people have not made up their minds, perhaps it is not a sign that these voters are equally attracted to two candidates. Rather, quite a few voters seem unhappy with the candidates on offer. This is only an impression based on an arbitrary sample and an unscientific method. But it seemed confirmed by another thing I noticed. Few people seem to be wearing buttons proclaiming their support for a candidate. I was in a large store with many middle-class Black customers outside of Hartford Connecticut. I was hoping to see some Obama buttons. I did not see any, worn by anyone, regardless of race. Nor did I hear anyone talking about politics, either.

So what are people talking about? Football, American style. The Super Bowl is February 3. And it pits the New York Giants against the New England Patriots. And for the majority of readers of this blog who live outside the US, I should say that the Patriots have won every single game of the season, including one at the end against the Giants, and have the longest winning streak in the whole history of football. But that was a close game against the Giants a few weeks ago, even though it meant little to the Giants, because they were going to the playoffs whether they won or lost. And that game was played on the Patriot's home field, whereas the Super Bowl will be played in good weather in Arizona on a neutral field. The game is everywhere in the media, and the sporting public is betting heavily on it. Las Vegas bookmakers think this could be the first time that a single football game will generate bets of more than $100,000,000 dollars. Some tickets are still available to the game on the Internet, but the prices are from $3950 up to $7000. That is for one ticket. A parking space is $125. Plus a flight, a hotel, meals, drinks, and souvenirs.  Total cost at least $5000 per person.

Two days before Super Tuesday, almost the entire male population and many women as well will ignore politics completely to watch the Super Bowl. I expect that John McCain, from Arizona, will manage to be in the stands for the game. If Obama is smart, he will be there too. And Bill and Hillary surely have realized the value of being there. Because most of the nation will be watching, and they will like a candidate who takes an interest in moving that bloated bit of pigskin up and down a 100-yard field.   Politics or Football? For many, this is a silly question.