The ‘Super Bowl’ of politics

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If you watch television, listen to Fox News or CNN, read the newspaper, or otherwise have any idea about what is going on in this country you can’t help but be aware of two major events going on right now. The Super Bowl and the Republican Presidential Primaries are sucking up all the air on media leaving precious little time to discuss anything else.

In some ways politics and sports are a lot alike. The metaphors we use are strikingly similar. We want to “win.” We are on the same “team.” Sports are often used to bring people together, like the Olympics. Political campaigns seek to do the same thing by uniting the people under one candidate or party, with somewhat more marginal success.

I had the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl with a large number of friends at one of their homes. The banter leading up to the game was quite animated. People had many reasons for choosing the team they wanted to win. My personal favorites were the people that were younger siblings so they wanted the New York Giants to win. Their reason was none other than because the Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, is the younger brother of Peyton Manning.

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Politics are not a lot different. People often select a candidate for reasons that have nothing to do with their belief about who is the best person for the job.

Almost 25 percent of the people watching the Super Bowl don’t follow professional football. Certainly, the percentage of people that will elect our next president without following politics or debates is at least that high.

I am constantly amazed at the educated, successful people that have no clue when I ask the name of their Congressman or Senator. “What district are you in?” I might ask. As often as not, I am met with a blank stare.

I have come to believe that the general public knows the statistics of the players on their favorite football team much better than they know how their representatives voted on the last important vote.

Another 25 percent actually watch the Super Bowl primarily because of the cutting-edge commercials. Certainly that isn’t the case with politics lately. Approximately 92 percent of the commercials aired in the recent Florida Republican primary were negative.

The worst of the ads are paid for by the “Super PACS.” The universal answer by the candidates when questioned about these highly negative ads is that they don’t have any control over what other people are saying on their behalf. I put that answer in the “hogwash” category.

Negative ads are so prevalent in political campaigns for one reason and one reason only: they work. Ask any of the flash-in-the-pan leaders of the past few months. They didn’t fall from their perch because someone suddenly put forth better ideas or plans for our future.

They always, always fail because of bitter, divisive advertisements that tear apart a person’s character, past, and plan for the future without any regard to the truth. Is it any wonder that we hold our politicians in such low regard? Wouldn’t it be nice to vote for someone for a reason other than you despise him the least?

Ironically, the Super Bowl ads, costing an average of over $116,000 per second (yes that is per second) seem to be universally positive. It is hard to imagine the polar bears mentioning anything really negative about Pepsi. From automobiles, to Doritos, to the engines of America’s economy, they talk about why they are better. How I long for politicians to do the same.

With all the people at the Super Bowl party eating, talking, and enjoying each others company, there was only one event that stopped everything and made everyone focus at the same time: Madonna! At 53 years old, she brought the house down, with everyone either loving it or hating it.

After nearly 20 debates, the presidential candidates seem to have nothing left to say. They only talk negatively and give no real substantial reasons why they are better than the status quo.

This is no way to elect a president, especially during these very trying and difficult times. Perhaps they should talk to Coca-Cola. At least hire Madonna for the debate intermission. If none of that works, then simply toss a coin or follow the lead of Tom Brady and throw a “Hail Mary” pass.

We couldn’t do much worse.

Dan Ponder can be reached at