Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obama should go on ESPN

Part of the modern campaign is that candidates go on talk shows that they didn't use to go on - The View, The Daily Show, Ellen, Oprah. I think this is a positive development for democracy, bringing the candidates closer to viewers. As far as I know, however, none of them have ever been on ESPN.

I think Obama should break new ground here. I think he should go on Sports Center. I don't have cable, so I don't watch ESPN that much, but I am aware of the fanaticism that it inspires. There are guys who watch it incessantly. I've heard that Obama is big fan.

The most obvious reason for Obama to go Sports Center is to prove he's a regular guy, and to connect with white guys. More subtly, it would counter charges of him being an elitist. I've noticed an odd twist around the "elitism" issue in this campaign - Barack and Michelle Obama, two people from solidly middle class backgrounds who worked their way up, have problems being perceived at "elitist," while Cindy McCain, born into wealth, does not.

I think part of what "elitism" means in this election has little to do with wealth, and a great deal to do with intellectual ability. The Obamas are smart. That should be a positive in someone running for president. Moreover, they like being smart, they enjoy intellectual challenges, they like hanging out with smart people. Again, these should be positives.

But people who are not as smart as them, who are not paid to enjoy intellectual challenges, resent them because they see the Obamas as members of a class - managers, professionals - who get paid exorbitant amounts of money, and who reward themselves richly for being smart. For blue-collar workers, Barack Obama represents their boss, the guy in the corner office who looks out for himself and his buddies before taking care of the guys on the shop floor.

Going on ESPN would counter this impression, because, among American men, sports is the great intellectual equalizer. A guy who works on the line at Ford and never took a single college class thinks of himself as knowing just as much about why the Yankees are in trouble as any guy with a Harvard degree. Most guys who pay attention to basketball can give you a detailed opinion on why the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the finals.

It would also be a great way to counter the impression that some people have that Obama is somehow foreign.

Sports are bonding experiences for guys. You can tell a lot about a guy by who he roots for.

1 comment:

Phil Ha said...

great idea John. Not many Americans can directly relate to hunting moose, but millions can relate to watching SportsCenter. It's also a place where white males and black males have no problem getting along and respecting each other (unless Rush Limbaugh's involved!)