The Winning Way

PUBLISHED: November 4, 2010

Baseball is not only the Great American Pastime, but also the Great American Metaphor.

So, it says here: If politicians and their supporters had behaved more like the San Francisco Giants and their fans, the seriously botched midterm elections of 2010 might have played out differently.

It starts with the leader, who in the Giants’ case is a 35-year veteran of baseball politics named Bruce Bochy. Boch, as players and media like to call him, governed quietly but passionately, with a firm hand. When challenged by critics during the long season he remained true to his principles, never wavering or making excuses.

Other than a brilliant pitching staff, the Giants are a nation of few superstars; they are a unit whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To win, they often had to reach across the aisle to find compromise – for example, swapping outfielders in the late innings of almost every game to balance the offensive strengths of some with the defensive strengths of others.

The Giants won with a roster of immigrants. Ross, Fontenot, Burrell, Lopez, Ramirez – they were all playing elsewhere when the season began. Yet they were welcomed by San Francisco players and fans based only on character and contribution. When one, Guillen, made an apparent legal misstep late in the season, he was gently cast aside, but not vilified.

It was a community in which young people like Posey and Bumgarner blended perfectly with the game's senior citizens like Renteria, who emerged as the Series' Most Valuable Player.

Asked during the champagne celebration what made this population so special, Wilson, the Majority Leader of the Bullpen, said simply: They all arrived on time every day, knew what had to be done, and went about doing it without complaining. Sounds so simple doesn't it?

After more than five decades without a world championship, San Francisco voters had every right to be frustrated. New ownership took over the Giants and pledged there would be change fans could believe in. More players would be developed within the organization, and a new sense of pride would prevail. But it would take time, and fans who supported the effort would have to be patient, realizing that previous administrations created a situation that could not be corrected overnight.

Ron Washington, the losing manager, was eloquent in his concession speech. “You know,” he said, “I'm the leader of the Texas Rangers, but I'm only as good as my followers, and my followers are pretty good.”

Meanwhile, on the political playing field – where the games really count – things became more nasty and divisive as the season wore on. Team spirit was frequently replaced by individual greed. Voters showed little patience after barely two years of rebuilding.

Too often it seems that we’re better at sports than at many of the more important things. That’s a shame, because Americans prove repeatedly on the diamond that we really do know what it takes to win.

(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.

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