EDITORIAL: Sportsmanship lacking in politics

Illustration by Rob Gebelhoff/ robert.gebelhoff@mu.edu

After last Monday, there was no escaping the heated commentary about the final call of the Packers-Seahawks game. Your Facebook newsfeed was probably filled with profanity and complaints about the temporary referees and how they “got the call all wrong.”

But it wasn’t just your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter complaining about the replacement refs. President Barack Obama, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan also had no problem telling their supporters and the press that the NFL needed its official referees back.

It seems a bit ironic, doesn’t it? All these politicians calling for compromise between the NFL Referees Association and the National Football League when they can’t even have bipartisan negotiations of their own.

Politicians who distance themselves from opposing parties at any chance they get were finally able to agree on one thing: football.

Now if that isn’t American enough for you, we don’t know what is.

The politicians wanted the original refs back just as much as the everyday fans did. And this weekend, that wish was granted. The official refs returned to football stadiums across the nation on their white horses while adoring fans threw flowers at their feet. Well, maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea.

As the official referees walked onto the field at Lambeau, they were greeted by cheers and smiling faces from all directions. The refs waved at their loyal supporters and smiled right back at them.

Kickoff was underway and it felt like a joyous football Sunday again, at least for the first half of the game. But when the referees made what seemed to the crowd like another miss-call, the very same people who cheered for their return began booing, howling and screaming profanities.

Hmm … this rings a familiar bell. Whenever any politician proposes a policy or says something voters disagree with, he or she receives an identical response.

Maybe politics and professional football have more in common than we thought. There may not be outright tackling, but politics sure has its own version of pass interference and roughing the passer. Maybe elected officials should be given helmets, too.

Now, if only each voter was allowed a shiny yellow flag to be thrown each time a politician did something wrong, our analogy would be complete.

And in thinking about this football-politics parallel, we can’t help but wonder a few things. When was the last time we saw everyone united together as passionately about a political issue? Would national problems actually be resolved like the referee situation if we did? How many of the thousands of people who called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about last Monday’s game bother to call their senators or representatives to voice their opinions? When was the last time you bought a ticket to a campaign event or watched a presidential press conference? Do we care as much about the state of our country as we do about the state of a game?

Sometimes politicians, like refs, make bad calls. Once in a while (every four years, to be precise) those “refs” can be replaced. Everyone makes her or his own call, and fans either cheer these refs on or scream for their dismissal.

You may not have to register to be a football fan and you don’t get to cast a ballot during the draft, but we hope you put as much thought into your decision on Election Day as you did thinking up your fantasy team’s name. Touchdown, America.

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