Sports metaphors abound in the political world, too

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | 4:38 p.m. CDT; updated 12:34 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 26, 2008

People in politics sure love their sports metaphors.

Monday night, Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, described Sen. Barack Obama in terms of his basketball game: "He'll take the shot if he's open. He's a team player who improves the people around him, and he won't back down from any challenge," he said.

Earlier this week, Sen. Dick Durbin compared the presidential race to a basketball game.

In preparation for the Democratic National Convention, we heard from a variety of speakers, many of whom employed sports factoids and comparisons in their remarks.

Our scholar in residence, Michael Genovese, often opened his lectures with baseball trivia.

"I tell people that I don't play golf or tennis or anything. I just play politics," former Democratic National Committee Chairman Dan Fowler said Monday.

There's even an online game, Fantasy Congress, that is similar to fantasy football or basketball leagues. Participants select members of Congress, then earn points when their "teams" vote on or pass important pieces of legislation or win news coverage.

It's no coincidence that people who love politics often love sports as well. Both are competitive, and organizers and observers take great pains to make them entertaining. For example, the producer of this year's Democratic National Convention also produced the Super Bowl.

Before the convention started, we attended forums and participated in small group discussions, many of which dealt with the role of the media in politics. There's been some disdain about "horse race" coverage: the practice of reporting on polls just for the numbers' sake, pitting candidate against candidate in a contest no one wins until Election Day.

This kind of coverage certainly attracts viewers, readers and listeners. Even when the media provide in-depth coverage of issues and candidates' positions, horse race stories take up a significant chunk of the national media's resources. Is this coverage useful? What can we do to help you stay informed?

Catherine McComb is blogging from the Democratic National Convention. Read more coverage from the convention at


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