Thursday, August 23, 2007

I've written before how fans of sports teams discount and disregard instances of players engaging in bad behavior on and off the field... so long as that player plays for 'their' team. Giant fans ignore Barry Bonds being a steroid using a**hole, Ravens fans aren't concerned about Ray Lewis being a thug whose antics contributed to the murder of two men during Super Bowl week some years ago, and the fans of whichever team Terrell Owens is playing for could care less about his behavior, but only so long as he is catching passes for, yes, 'their team. It's as if helping their laundry win gives athletes a pass to get away with behavior that, were they not an athlete wearing the right laundry, would leave them friendless and penniless.

Well, it just occurred to me that voters do the same thing about 'their candidate'. They overlook and ignore behavior on the part of 'their' candidate that they wouldn't do themselves and wouldn't tolerate their friends and family doing.

An example is the Democrats rallying round Bill Clinton. I'd venture a guess that 80% of Democrats wouldn't cheat on their wifes and I'd figure that 50% of them wouldn't lie under oath. Yet they stuck by Clinton because he was 'their' President and because the 'other' side was going after Clinton. Better, they reasoned, to stand by Clinton and keep the Presidency in the 'right' hands than to give the other side a victory, even if doing so meant having to back a lying, cheating, rapist.

The same holds true of the Democrats and the candidates running for the Democratic nomination. How many Democrats really find much to admire in the wife of someone who constantly cheated on her, in someone who stayed married to a lying, cheating rapist rather than give up her access to power? How many Democrats would want to be friends with a two-faced, hypocritical trial lawyer? Heck, how many people really find much to admire in a trial lawyer, even one that wasn't a two-faced hypocrite?

And yet Hillary Clinton and John Edwards command a fair amount of support in the Democratic party.

Years ago, when Iverson was getting his pass out of jail and onto the Georgetown basketball team, I argued that the roster spot should have gone to someone who wasn't guilty of inciting a riot, that Iverson being rewarded showed that it was more important to be a good basketball player than it was to be a good person. I felt that if we rewarded the good kids, even if they had less talent than the thugs, we would do more to clean up sports - and, by extension, society as a whole, than any other thing we could do.

If the owner of the Baltimore Ravens to announce that, no matter how talented Ray Lewis was, a thug whose buddies were accused of murdering two men was not welcome, if the owner of the San Francisco Giants to announce that, no matter how talented Barry Bonds was, an a**hole who all but admitted using steroids wasn't welcome on his team, if the owner of the Sacramento Kings announced that, no matter how talented Ron Artest was, someone with such poor self-control wasn't welcome in the locker room, it would do wonders for the image of professional sports.

Likewise, if the voters said they weren't going to support candidates with character flaws, if the voters wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole the candidates who were stupid, who were hypocrites, if the voters ignored the candidates who knowingly distorted the facts in order to have a 10 second sound bite, we would end up with a better class of candidate.

But the voters don't... so we end up with what we deserve... people we vote for, but only because we close our eyes to their flaws.