Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why a Sports League Commissioner Should Run the DNC

Please indulge me in a little sports analogy.

Two sports teams -- let's call them Team O and Team C -- agree to play a couple of exhibition games against each other before the regular season. Team C wins both games, which isn't a big surprise because C is expected by many to win its conference and play for the championship. In fact, Team C wins the first game by forfeit when Team O doesn't even show up.

The regular season starts, and as is so often the case in sports something unexpected happens. Team O gradually builds a slight lead over Team C in the standings.

The end of the season eventually draws near and Team O continues to hold its thin advantage. Team C is running out of time to catch Team O and make the championship round. Suddenly an unprecedented suggestion comes from the hosts of the two exhibition games -- they want to make those two preseason contests count.

Team C loves the idea. Team O not so much. It wouldn't make up all the ground between the two teams, but it would narrow the gap and give C at least a slim chance of ending up on top.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, as far as I can tell that's pretty much exactly the scenario we have with the Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan.

The voters in both primaries knew going in that THEIR VOTES WOULDN'T COUNT. The political equivalent of exhibition games. Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan, because he and four other Democratic candidates decided to take them off to show support for the DNC's ruling.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to Denver. The race for the Democratic presidential nomination got really, really tight and it became clear that literally every delegate was probably going to matter. In March the respective governors of Michigan and Florida asked the Democratic National Committee to seat theirs. And after a couple of months of wrangling and rhetoric the DNC decided today to do just that, but only give each delegate a half-vote.

I suppose this sort of compromise was inevitable and necessary. If the DNC had stuck to its guns, the Republicans would undoubtedly have used that in November to imply that the Democrats don't care about the fine people of those fine states. I'll be shocked if they still don't try to use this in some fashion.

But seriously, can you imagine David Stern handling this in a similar fashion in the NBA? He would have moved Florida's state convention to Oklahoma City after they pulled their little stunt. How about Roger Goodell in the NFL? Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm would still be on indefinite suspension. Bud Selig may be the only one who thinks this makes sense, given the ludicrous decision to bestow home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game.

So don't feel bad if you prefer following sports to politics. At least in sports, everybody understands the rules (with the possible exception of Bill Belichick) and nobody expects them to change while the contest is still going on.

I'll bet Team M is enjoying its rest while this drags out, too.

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