The Drive, The Shot And Red Right 2010

I’m not sure why the media haven’t sent any political analysts to Cleveland. If they want a true read on the upcoming election, they should stop trying to predict a winner and instead come to the one place on the planet that has more experience than anyone in something just as handy: spotting a loser. It’s like watching a Browns game. It’s a crucial drive and the Browns are facing third and long on their own side of the field. While the defensive coordinator is struggling to figure out what coverage to call, thousands of fans across Northeast Ohio already know what’s coming. It’s 3rd and 14… here comes the draw play for a gain of six yards.

Baseball is no different. It's the bottom of the ninth, we're down by one, the bases are loaded with one out, and everyone can see the game-ending double-play before it’s even hit. It’s not that we’re pessimists, it’s that decade after decade we've watched team after team come up short, so we can see the outcome just by the look in the players’ eyes. It’s not obvious to everyone, but to those with the gift of spotting failure, it’s as plain as the grimace on Craig Ehlo’s face. It’s seeing John Elway take the field with 5:32 left in the game, down by 7 and 98 yards away from the endzone, and confidently knowing, we’ve already lost.

We know the feeling well; it’s a talent sadly developed after years of pain and suffering. We can spot defeat from a mile away, and right now we’re seeing it in the eye of nearly every politician in Washington.

Recently, a couple of events caught my eye that really drive home the point. First, it was Ohio’s own John Boehner rolling out the “Pledge to America”. On the surface it sounded good, but I’m guessing that most Clevelanders saw this for what it really was: Carlos Baerga popping out to center to end game six of the World Series. Constantly ridiculed by the left as the “party of no”, and now getting hammered by the Tea Party as not being conservative enough, the Republicans essentially are just throwing the bat at the ball to see if they can make contact. Let’s face it, promising to adhere to the Constitution, support small businesses and cut spending back to 2008 levels isn’t exactly swinging for the fences. With the game on the line, they’re not trying to hit a home run, they’re just hoping not to strike out.

Second was the decision, or lack thereof, by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats on whether or not to let the Bush tax cuts expire. In the middle of what we’re constantly reminded is the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Congressional Democrats are facing an almost no-win situation: They can let them expire, which might continue financial stagnation, extend them which might lead to even bigger deficits, or fight for some middle ground, which won’t make anyone happy. Tied at 14 and facing fourth and one at the opponents’ 35 yard line, Pelosi is neither going for it or attempting the long field goal, but rather, she’s letting the clock expire, hoping things will go better in over-time. That’s right, when the going gets tough, the tough apparently call an early adjournment to the session.

In both cases, I don’t see real leadership; I see political positioning and posturing. I see people who are so afraid to make the wrong decision that they’re doing everything they can to avoid making any decision. And I don’t think I’m alone. Ask any Clevelander and, regardless of their bias, if they’re honest, they’ll tell you the same thing. When they look in the eyes of any incumbent politician they see the same look as when Jose Mesa took the mound in ’97 against the Marlins. There was no confidence, there was no command, there was only a man, praying to God that the ball would somehow find its way into a teammate's glove.

Winning takes courage, and great success is not possible without the risk of even greater failure. But that’s not what we’re seeing out of our elected leaders right now. Forget the budget, the biggest deficit we’re facing is a shortage of leaders with a spine. Like picking a team by judging who looks best in their uniform, we seem to be electing bureaucrats based on their ability to straddle a fence and avoid any possible confrontation by really committing to an issue.

I’ve gotten to the point where I almost don’t care which side wins the argument anymore, I just want to see someone passionately defending their beliefs, willing to risk re-election simply by sticking to their guns on what they feel is right and wrong.

This city has never failed to support our teams, even when they came up short, as long as they put forth their best effort. And, while we might not know the fundamentals of a proper free throw, the mechanics of a good curve ball or the first thing about the “cover-two” defense, Cleveland knows the difference between the look of a winner and the look of those trying not to lose. I just hope we all start using that expertise in the voting booth, because I think it’s the only way we’ll ever see our nation champions again.

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Volume 6, Issue 20, Posted 8:30 AM, 10.06.2010