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Dionne writes: "I suspect I share this with many others: Over the past 500 or so days, I often wanted to ditch politics entirely."

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors exchange words during Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., on May 31. (photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors exchange words during Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., on May 31. (photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

What LeBron and Steph Could Teach Donald

By E.J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post

11 June 18


suspect I share this with many others: Over the past 500 or so days, I often wanted to ditch politics entirely. Sports became my shelter from the storm, a field of competition in which performance can be judged with a degree of objectivity and blustery hot takes on Twitter do not threaten the republic.

True, it says something about my attitudes toward President Trump that a political obsessive such as me would want to escape the news — and, I’ll admit it, not hear that voice.

And sports are by no means an airtight sanctuary from political discord. Trump’s war on National Football League player protests and the capitulation of the league’s owners to his campaign of intimidation are maddening for many reasons. One of them is the president’s inability to allow a sphere of life to remain independent of his influence. He always needs to divide, and he insists on being the center of attention, whether he’s welcomed or not.

Nor do I forget that professional sports are about making money. Owners make cold decisions to move teams from one city to another, breaking the hearts of the faithful. Players serve their own financial interests, aware that they’re negotiating with people who are doing exactly the same thing.

For all this, I am willing to suspend disbelief so I can enjoy both the nobility of achievement and the simple delight of the fans.

As a long-standing resident of the D.C. area, I was elated when the Washington Capitals finally captured the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup last week. Sports devotees in a city whose pro teams have lost, and lost, and lost again deserved a reprieve.

Area residents who a month earlier didn’t know a blue line from a chorus line suddenly became experts on penalty kills and cross-checks. It was beautiful. New fans joined long-timers in devoutly wanting good tidings for a place they care about, a brand of loyalty we can treasure.

And although I’ll always be a baseball fan — I’m not just saying this to reassure my colleague George F. Will, who regards indifference to the national pastime as a form of treason — I truly fell in love with the National Basketball Association this season.

What a relief it was to immerse myself in the youthful grace of Jayson Tatum, the driven genius of LeBron James, the joyful smile of Steph Curry.

I’m a down-the-line Boston fan (despite my rooting with my neighbors for a Caps victory), so I reveled in the overachievement of a very young Celtics team after injuries sidelined its stars, Kyrie Irving and — in the first game of the season — Gordon Hayward.

Nobody expected them to go very deep into the playoffs, yet they kept winning, taking LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Concerning the up-and-coming generation, I’m a hope-monger. So I loved it that a bunch of guys on the youngish side of 20-something — Tatum (20), Jaylen Brown (21) and “Scary Terry” Rozier (24) — shocked the skeptics with their grit and skill. And being rather beyond my 20s, I also admired the dependability and leadership of Al Horford, the wise elder at 32.

We didn’t quite make it all the way this year, but just wait till everyone comes back healthy in the fall.

And while the Golden State Warriors’ four-game sweep of the Cavs took some of the fizz out of the championship series, the Warriors’ almost otherworldly dominance earned this team a place in history. The question of whether LeBron could carry this team all the way made for good drama (even if the answer was “no”), as did gritty moments from Kevin Love and, despite his big mistake in Game 1, J.R. Smith.

Okay, politics are inescapable, and I respect the NBA’s progressive attitude toward racial equality and players’ rights to speak out against injustice. The NBA owners should give the NFL owners seminars on these matters. Oh, and after both LeBron and Curry said they wouldn’t go to any White House victory celebration if his team won, Trump said he wouldn’t invite the NBA champs anyway.

The president might learn something if he had them over, because the biggest lessons that politics can take from sports concern judging people by whether they deliver on what’s expected of them; how teams work together across many divides of personality, race and nationality; and how partisans can be passionately loyal without really hating each other (the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry partly excepted).

And wouldn’t it be lovely if politics could be fun again? your social media marketing partner


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+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-11 13:52
I agree with this entirely, except for the parts about baseball and George Will. Baseball is a game for sissys like Will.

Politics will never be fun again because it never was. It is a fundamentally different thing. Dionne is right that there is cut throat business behind professional sports. But out front, there is still the game itself and the players who have mastered the game. They understand it and know what to do at every turn. The business is irrelevant to this. The game itself is honorable. The best players are recognized by all.

Politics is the business of controlling the masses of people for the interests of the few. There is no game out front. It is the simply work of lying to people so that their wealth and labor can be stolen and handed over the the oligarchs. Some politicians, like Obama, have learned to smile as they stick the knife in your back. Others never smile.

Chomsky used to describe the role of media and politicains as "keeping the rabble in line." They do this with nice persuasion and speech about voting, or they do it with the truncheons of the police.

The game itself in sports is noble. Players master certain skills as if they were artists. They are a pleasure to watch. Politicians are assassins and thieves. There is no pleasure in watching them.
+5 # jsluka 2018-06-11 21:00
Quote: "the biggest lessons that politics can take from sports concern judging people by whether they deliver on what’s expected of them."

A good thought, but of course totally inapplicable to Trump because he does not, has not, and will not delivered what is expected of him (he's basically already betrayed most of those who voted for him), but in the 'alternative facts' world he lives in, he thinks and claims he HAS delivered and is 'the greatest president - EVER!'
+6 # Texas Aggie 2018-06-11 22:02
"And wouldn’t it be lovely if politics could be fun again?"

Go read Charles Pierce's report on a conversation with a GA pol about shafting friends in order to get a nomination. That gives you an idea of what goes on beyond the smoke screens put up by the MSM. There are times when Caribou Barbie accidentally finds a tuft of moss, like when she calls them the Lame Stream Media.
+6 # lorenbliss 2018-06-12 03:56
This is a genuinely superb piece of H.L.Mencken-cal iber writing. Thank you, RSN, for publishing it.

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