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Sunday, December 31, 2006
Popularity from Sports to Politics and Back

This Bush-for-Baseball-Commissioner thing is taking me in a bunch of different directions. Not bad for a random thought hatched over Christmas-Day Chinese food with my family.

One commenter questions my suggestion that Bush's unpopularity would not necessarily bother people or cause them to stop watching baseball. He raises a really interesting question about contextual popularity or unpopularity of public figures that is beyond the scope of this forum. But sports links are everywhere, so I thought I would respond:

George W. Bush, the President, is unpopular. Many, many people do not like his policies, his politics, or the manner in which he conducts himself in the Office of the President of the United States. But that does not necessarily translate into a general dislike of George W. Bush, the Person (whom I do not know). It will translate with some people. Many will respond negatively to anything Bush does, especially those who believe he is unintelligent. Many also see Bush not only as following bad policies, but as following illegal (and thus impeachable) policies. The commenter captured the latter point when he used the analogy of the CEO of Enron not becoming beloved as President. The CEO of Enron was unpopular not because he did a bad job as CEO (lots of CEOs do a bad job), but because he did illegal things.

Note, however, that those objections to Bush as commissioner are based on his ability, as opposed to his popularity--the assumption that because he is a bad president, he would be a bad commissioner. Maybe so. But if we focus solely on popularity, I do not know whether or not I would dislike or disagree with Bush's ideas and views in a different context, such as running baseball. Maybe we share a dislike for the wild card, inter-league play, the designated hitter, and the obscenely small strike zone (to cite a few examples). And maybe I would appreciate his frat-boy-charming personality wielded towards ends I like.

The converse of this phenomenon--athletic popularity translating into political popularity--is at the heart of the growing trend of former professional athletes running for public office. The most recent examples were Lynn Swann's unsuccessful run for governor of Pennsylvania and Heath Shuler's successful run for U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina, as well as Charles Barkley's continued promises/threats to run for governor of Alabama in 2010. All are counting on name recognition, reputation, and popularity built in one context carrying into a different context. Shuler, of course, had to overcome the fact that he was not a very good NFL quarterback.

In any event, we hope the voters will consider the candidate on the merits (on his ability to perform in office) before supporting him and not automatically assume that popularity and likability on the playing field means likability in public office. So why should the reverse not be true--unpopularity (again, distinct from competence) in political office does not automatically mean unpopularity in a sports-related job?


I do like your response, but let me say a few things in defense. First, the CEO of Enron doing illegal things, such as escalating the values in his accounting books, in my eyes is doing a bad job. Second, I understand that Bush is not popular, but popularity in presidency shows a direct connection between practices and decisions. Therefore, if baseball makes "unpopular" Bush the commissioner, they are setting themselves up for failure. The first wrong decision he makes will be scrutinized 10 times worse any wrong mistakes previous commissioners have made (David Stern new basketball). I am personally not a fan of president Bush, but I am smart enough to realize that baseball and presidency are mutually exclusive and even though I think he has failed as a president he could make it as baseball commissioner. With that said, I do not believe the rest of America is that smart, we live in a society of what have you done for me lately.

Anonymous Daddy -- 12/31/2006 12:27 PM  

Bush will never be the owners choice for Commissioner for the same reason they let Peter Ueberoth go. A strong figure with a mind of his own, who can figuratively push the owners around if need be will never be a desirable candidate in the owners eyes. They will want another yes-man, lap-dog type.

Blogger Charles Slavik, CPT*D -- 1/01/2007 11:58 AM  

Umm..... Are you guys out of your minds?

Bush is unpopular not because he is a bad President. He is unpopular because he has been a criminally negligent, greedy, stupid and completely incompetent, lying boob. He and the group of criminals he brought with him to the White House should be sent to jail. Any conversation about what Bush is gonna do after his term is up needs to start with the multitude of investigations that need to be undertaken to expose and prosecute him and his cronies for the virtually untrammelled corruption they have been guilty of FROM THE MINUTE HE TOOK THE OATH.

Anonymous John J Perricone -- 1/02/2007 3:39 PM  

Umm...where did I make any reference to Bush's popularity John? Be careful when you cast a wide net. I made mention of the fact that MLB owners will not pick a strong, populist, outside candidate. Although Bush and George Will have some insider traits. For the same reason, a guy like Bob Costas would never be acceptable. He would be feared as someone who could and would go over their heads directly to the people if he had to circumvent the owners wishes.

Blogger Charles Slavik, CPT*D -- 1/03/2007 4:27 PM  

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