With the mid-term elections bearing down on us, we will be hearing no small amount of political rhetoric and emotional pleas and promises. Politicians hoping to remain in office, as well as those aspiring to take over an office, will be talking big and loud about the many and sundry ways that they plan to spend your money once they comfortably reside in said office. It’s rather amazing how easy it is to solve a problem during the campaign period: just spend more money. If only it was this easy during the political term. It is here that politicians (and more importantly, voters) need to take a lesson from the sports world.
The sports news reporting outlets have been buzzing lately with several interesting stories. One is the elimination of the Yankees from any further post-season play by the Detroit Tigers. Another is the ongoing saga of NFL prima donna Terrell Owens. Yet another is the endless debate that resurfaces every year about the broken and limping BCS (Bowl Championship Series) of college football. Each one of these is an example of the false, but prevailing view, that money can buy championships (and solve problems).
With the swirl of speculation and pontificating about the “premature” demise of the expensive Yankees franchise, one would be forgiven for thinking that—at least as far as the media was concerned—the Yankees had already won the World Series. Quick on the heels of their surprising elimination by the upstart Tigers, Yankees’ manager Joe Torre’s head was on the chopping block as retribution for the loss. Somebody had to be to blame for this unprecedented event. George Steinbrenner had laid out a huge chunk of change to get his all-star team, and nobody imagined that they would be watching the ALCS from their couches. Steinbrenner had intended to purchase a World Series victory, not reserve a seat in front of his own television. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has seen the same misfortune with his millions of dollars spent attempting to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the nation’s capitol. Money can’t buy championships anymore than it can fix political and social problems.
Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Terrell Owens is another case in point. Last season his pointed and harsh criticism of then teammate Donovan McNabb led to his release from the Eagles and a pitiful showing for the rest of the 2005 season by the Eagles. But what a difference a year makes. Owens is now Bill Parcells’ problem in Dallas and his return to Philadelphia last weekend for the Eagles/Cowboys game became a showcase for McNabb and a complete letdown for Owens. For all his money and promises, Owens’ mouth is writing checks that his talent can’t cash. Conversely, with his troublesome presence removed from the Eagles’ locker room, they are playing like a team again. McNabb is having the best season of his career and the whole team seems to have gotten its purpose back. Sometimes a star player isn’t worth the time or money.
The BCS is a prime example of an elaborate system of committees, meetings, voting, and computer rankings/polls. Doesn’t this sound exactly like a government project? The BCS is a study in “following the money.” Instead of using the logical and obvious approach of every other sport, i.e. the playoff, the BCS system attempts to keep an archaic system of holiday bowl games intact and still determine a “top dog” at the end of the season. Bucketfuls of cash have been thrown at this lame duck, yet every season there is a dispute as to which team can rightfully claim the title of “national champion.” Refusing to admit that the system is broken, BCS bureaucrats assure the public year after year that the system is working and getting better every season. Just like the NEA defending the public education system, BCS officials must major on the minors in an attempt to take your attention off of the huge elephant in the middle of the room.
These three examples from the sports arena are analogous to the political realm in many ways. Steinbrenner’s Yankees and Snyder’s Redskins are high profile instances that reveal that money can’t solve problems. Their efforts to buy championships in their respective sports have led to diminished wallets and frustration. Politicians promise, year after year, and especially in campaign years, that money will solve our problems. If we only get the right man in office to move more funds over here or there, all will be right with the world. But, each year the deficit grows, the bureaucracy gets thicker and the problems only escalate. Money ends up creating more problems than it fixes. Star politicians, in whom we place our trust, turn out to be no better at fixing problems than Terrell Owens is at keeping his opinions to himself. Instead of repairing the breach, they make the rift even wider. Committees are started, chairmen are appointed and closed-door deals are made, and like the BCS the result is nothing more than a mish-mash of half-baked, half-hearted solutions cobbled together with the golden twine of compromise. G.K. Chesterton rightly quipped that, “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” We would do well to remember Chesterton’s words and these examples from sports when we go to the polls in November.
 Lawyers and guns aren’t directly mentioned in this article, but I suppose they are implied. Anyway, it just seemed that this song by Warren Zevon fit the tenor for this article.