Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Patriots fans are no different than anyone else

As much as I wanted to keep my Obama post up today, my fingers are still wandering over the keys after the Super Bowl, and I figure it’s better to try go ahead and get it over with.

This isn’t one of those losses that hit me all at once. It’s one that will stick with me for years, because it’s been easier to repress any feelings of anger since about halfway through the game, when I figured the Patriots were going to lose. The mind plays funny tricks on people, and some day soon I’ll be torturing myself about specific plays, and how if any one of them had gone the Pats’ way, they would have won.

The problem is, I know that’s unfair. We got the breaks for years, and it was destined to come back on us, sharply. And, unlike any other NFC team, I am legitimately happy for my Giants fan friends because there are so many of them, and they have, for the most part, steered clear of me. I texted a few after the game offering congratulations, and one sent me an email yesterday asking me about the game, and I had to respond with platitudes, because my heart wasn’t in it. Will Leitch put it best in his NYT blog post:

It was sports at its absolute best: Random, unimaginable, insane. Not even a Patriots fan could deny it, though, just for the record, I’d wait a week or so to press them on the issue.

I don’t even know if a week will suffice. Everything I know about the game, intellectually, breaks my freaking heart, because my team lost the Super Bowl. And this is what people forget about Patriots fans: they’re the exact same as everyone else. I started reading the Indianapolis Colts blot this year because I was interested in hearing opposing voices to the Pats media machine. They were thrilled after the Super Bowl, because the Patrots lost, and more because Brady became de-mystified. They have long argued that to judge Peyton Manning based on the results of the games was not his fault, because there were often external factors that affected the performance. But in their latest post, they write about how Brady looked bad and he had a “mixture of frustration and confusion” on his face that will be their lasting memory of the game, gleefully. These are the EXACT same complaints that have been leveled against Manning in the past, which they have steadfastly refuted. I started reading thinking I would learn what the Patriots-infatuated media wasn’t telling me; what I learned, instead, is that the other fans are no different than Pats fans.

Everyone else can keep telling themselves that they are, but they’re not. I’ve tried to be a gracious fan in victory, but many have not, just like some Giants fans who were more concerned with “18-1” than they were with their own victories, and Giants fan who egged me in December after I did exactly nothing. Though most all Giants fans who are friends of mine have given me ample space here, like normal human beings. The point is you can’t pigeonhole a whole group of fans. I know my fair share of ignorant, say, Steelers fans, too, but I don’t classify them as a bad group: I would argue that they have the best fan base in the NFL. I like hating them, but I go to great pains to be consistent with my football analysis. It’s that consistency that has me constantly remembering the 2001 Pats Super Bowl after Sunday, and how I felt, and how the Giants feel now, and how that’s good for the game.

It’s also why I get upset at people like the unfathomable Gregg Easterbrook, who writes columns that basically tell every Patriots fan their team is f*cking dirt. Easterbrook’s no different than anyone else, and you can tell by the tenor of his column: if it was his favorite team, the Redskins or whomever, he’d be arguing on their side. Just wait 10 years, when another team starts to dominate for stretches like the Patriots, and see who defends them. It will be a select few who are consistent on the issue, but it will mostly be the fans of that team. It’s like clockwork. These things repeat themselves, but everyone lives in the present and forgets.

When the Super Bowl ended, the first thing I felt was not sadness. It was relief. This season was finally over. I was called an asshole 20x over for simply owning a Patriots jersey and wearing it to watch my incredibly good team. I didn’t care if the Patriots went undefeated; I just wanted them to win the last game. But they didn’t. When I saw Bill Belichick giving the postgame speech, he was wearing a Patriots polo, and I realized that maybe some of the fans who have colored the bad impressions of the Pats over the past few years will fall off the bandwagon because that little Patriots logo stood for “winning” to them. For me, it was the logo I failed to draw many times after it was introduced when I was in seventh grade, and indicative of the team I still love without qualifications. Some of the people there, I don’t care for, but as a franchise there isn’t one I love more.

That’s why this one will never go away, the same way the 1986 Red Sox debacle didn’t go away until 2004. I’ll be standing in line at a deli, waiting to buy a Gatorade, and it’ll hit me… faaaaaaaaahk. I’ll be reading a history book, and… faaaaaaaahk. I’ll be on a date, and I’ll think, “Faaaaaahk… but this is better.” It just sucks, at times of its own choosing. I have a friend who is a big Cleveland Indians fan, and when I asked him how often he thinks about Jose Mesa, the guy who blew the 1997 World Series, he answered “Every day.” This was five years ago, so he might not think about it that often any more, and the Patriots’ recent run of success will temper it for me. But if you see me a week from now, a month from now, even a year from now, and I’m suddenly quiet… looking off in the distance… and then shaking my head, silently, you know exactly what I’m thinking about. Just give me a second, and we’ll move on.

The case for Obama

As non-political as I try to make this blog, I want to make the case for Barack Obama in today’s primary election. My friends are pretty much split along Hillary/Obama lines, but I can’t let the arguments I hear for Hillary go unchallenged. Let me also say this at the outset: if John McCain wins the Republican nomination, and we have a Presidential race of McCain/Obama or McCain/Clinton, I will already be happy with the President no matter whom it is. I understand that many will disagree with me, but I don’t care to argue the point. That’s how I feel. But I feel Barack Obama is the best choice, and that the arguments for Hillary hold little water. Here they are:

1. She has more experience

It is true that Hillary Clinton has more Senatorial experience than Obama and is older, and therefore has more professional experience. I think most of the “experience” people refer to here is Clinton’s time in the White House. I do not believe proximity to the President has any bearing on how good a President will ultimately be, though it would help Hillary on day one, the moment she pledges to reform the broken White House. Clinton proponents have stressed that someone with intimate knowledge of the White House has a distinct advantage over someone like Obama, who has spent little time in the Oval Office. This argument has many holes in it, the first being that Bill Clinton himself came into the White House with no White House experience, though he logged executive experience in Arkansas. None of the presumed candidates for President have executive experience, so either:

a) Bill Clinton’s executive experience helped him to become a good President, or
b) Bill Clinton’s executive experience did not help him become a good President

If the answer is “a,” and we’re granting Hillary executive experience by proxy, this would go directly against her own contention that the President alone is responsible for their decisions, and bears the weight of the office. She said this in response to fears of a co-Presidency, which she said “didn’t work” the first time. If it “didn’t work” the first time, then why would we grant her any credit for executive experience? (Plus, if we were really worried about it, we’d have Romney/Richardson).

If the answer is “b,” then it’s a moot point, and any supposed knowledge runoff to Hillary wouldn’t benefit her, nor would it detract from Obama’s campaign. Outside of her White House years, Hillary’s record is not distinctly any more or less impressive than Obama’s, and vice versa. But her “experience” in the White House, while relevant in a few key areas, should not be a deciding factor in the Presidential race. (And obviously, if you think the answer is “c: Bill Clinton was not a good President,” this discussion probably isn’t relevant.)

2. She will be ready on “day one”

First of all, between the inauguration and the Presidential ball, this should really be “day two.” Jokes aside, I agree with Hillary here: she will be better on Day One. This is the one area that her proximity to the White House will help or, more importantly, the access to her husband’s former team of leaders. We’d probably get a team of people very familiar with the workings of the White House, and negotiating that bureaucracy is an actual challenge that Hillary would be better faced to meet. If Obama was elected President, I could see his bridge-building agenda getting off to a slow start, and I could see him hitting a few speed bumps with the bureaucracy. The advantage for 2009 is solidly for Hillary.

But here’s the thing: we are electing a President for four years. The same factor that would allow Hillary to have a stable team in place on day one would be limiting on day 366, or day 700. Obama would need to learn the landscape to find a team of new leaders and thinkers, just like Bill Clinton did in 1993. Bill Clinton had a terrible two years in office but rebounded to thump Bob Dole in 1996, and this should make it clear that it’s not about day one at all. The colossal disaster that is George W. Bush’s America cannot be fixed in a day, and probably can’t be fixed in four years. If you think Hillary is the better Presidential candidate across a four year term, by all means, vote for her, but “day one” is her zinger, and it means next to nothing.

3. She will have the best adviser in the world

There’s no denying Bill Clinton’s political talents and his intelligence, and there would be no denying his effect on a H. Clinton presidency, real or imagined. No matter what Hillary says, there will always be the perception that Bill is pulling some strings, and in politics, perception and reality have a funny way of mixing. Now for a lot of people, that’s alright. They like the idea of Bill Clinton being close to the White House.

But let’s look at it this way: we only trust Bill Clinton’s judgment because we saw it in action as President. Does Hillary receive any credit as an adviser to her husband’s Presidency? Hardly. It’s more about what she took from it than what she gave to it. Those simply nostalgic for Billy should remember that memory plays tricks on people, and that nostalgia is a dangerous tool when picking someone who will lead as the idealized time period falls farther and farther into the past. The world has changed significantly since Bill Clinton was in office, and it’s only going to continue to change.

Like the arguments for Hillary, you’ve heard the arguments for Obama before: he will unite people, he has better judgment (mostly, he was against the war from the beginning), he represents a necessary break from the Clinton/Bush past, he’s more likely to be elected, and, most importantly, he has the greatest potential as President. I buy into all of these arguments, and here’s why I think they are important.

I was already solidly pro-Obama when I read the incredible cover article to the NYT magazine last Sunday, entitled Waving Goodbye to Hegemony. The article describes the world as it is now, which is to say, it describes the world a lot different than most Americans think of it, or would like to admit. America is now merely one of three major world powers, with a voracious China and a self-confident European Union both rising in the days of American excess. The new world will be shaped by the decisions of the second world-countries that fill in the map between the powers, except for Iraq, countries long ignored by America. The next President will have to find a way to fix our horrible problems of poverty and inequality at home while literally carving out America’s place in the world. There’s no magnetism to the Stars and Stripes any more. We have to find our piece of the pie wherever we can get it, and we start by presenting ourselves as the country we want to be through our President.

If we elect Barack Obama President of the United States, it will be the greatest moment in the history of our country. I do not begrudge anyone at all who wants to vote for Hillary because of her gender, nor would I ever cross words with anyone on the subject. Against anyone else, Hillary would have my vote, and for that inarguably awesome reason. But the story of race is the story of America. Lincoln is our greatest President because he abolished slavery, and the world has watched us since then, and it has waited for us to turn the ultimate corner, and we have not. If we elect Hillary Clinton, we will be following in the wonderful footsteps of Argentina and Chile, who recently elected women leaders, and we will be applauded. If we elect Barack Obama, we will be following no one. We will be leading again, living up to the promise of our country by taking the one step long thought unfathomable. We will have a President with dark skin, and he will be the right man for the job. It would be our greatest triumph, and we would reap the benefits.