Crab Cakes and Football

The time of year is here again: a cooler breeze is moving in, leaves are turning yellow, and subject dividers are going on sale at Staples. And the old must now contend with the new. Open-toed shoes compete with leather boots; rooftop parties face a take-over by cozier speakeasies, and a new season of reality television is pitting a fresh batch of attractive people with low self-esteem against the survivors of last season. But this fall one particular series of contests has monopolized the hearts and minds of Americans and it will continue to do so until the final showdown. Yep, that’s right, it’s football season.

You can’t get more American than football. Football promotes community, competition and consumption; the three C’s of American ideology. And of course, it’s highly popular. College and even high school football games tend to draw more crowds in this country than political rallies do. American politics can benefit from taking a page out of the NFL playbook, which seems to be exactly what both Democrats and Republicans did at their conventions this year.

The Democratic National Convention was like the Super Bowl, both in principle and aesthetic. It was the day in which all eyes of the nation turned to the Democrats. The events showcased a victor after a long journey of training and competition; tickets sold out months in advance; and also like the Super Bowl, it would have been impossible to underestimate the importance of colorful lights, star-studded entertainment, hot dogs, beer, and VIP parties in defining the event.

This year’s Republican National Convention, on the other hand, was more like a small-town high school’s homecoming game. In front of a clamoring crowd of delegates clad in their party’s colors and silly hats bearing the names of their home state, Senator McCain introduced Sarah Palin, just as a high school principal introduces the homecoming queen.

My high school homecoming rally experience was similar to that of the Republican delegates. I remember in high school hearing the principal’s announcement of the homecoming queen and realizing it was the first time most of us sitting in the bleachers had ever heard of her. Yet we cheered uproariously anyway, not because of an affinity for homecoming royalty, but because the announcement meant we were that much closer to the end of the rally. Closer to the end of the rally meant closer to the parties that awaited us at the house of whosoever parents were out of town. For the delegates, McCain’s announcement of the formerly unknown Palin was the perfect antidote to their campaign fatigue, and put them that much closer to the end o f an election cycle that has been particularly brutal for Republicans.

Just as my high school homecoming rally was more an occasion to dress in school colors, drink during the day and scream obscenities to the other classes, than it was to celebrate our home team or class king and queens, the Republican convention was much more an opportunity for delegates to show state pride, snack on expensive whiskey and crab cakes and defend themselves against the Democrats than it was a celebration of its party royalty.

–Jamie Wong