What’s the score?

I overheard two men at work today discussing Saturday’s primary election results from South Carolina. They rattled off numbers, numerous scenarios and possible eliminations. One contributed his belief Rick Santorum would end up another candidate’s running mate.

A breath later, the men were discussing Sunday’s National Football League conference championships results. They rattled off numbers, numerous scenarios and eliminations. One contributed his belief a coach of a losing team would end up supporting one of the teams that won Sunday.

Has politics become a sport to us?

Friendships end over the smallest political disagreements. Talking heads on television and newspaper op-ed writers go to great, passionate lengths to spread support for their network/publisher’s candidate of choice. Even children are not exempt from debates, occasionally relaying their parents’ political beliefs to classmates.

Oftentimes, the talking points are cliché, irrelevant and terribly under researched. No one knows what they’re talking about, but Goddamnitall, they have a point to make. How many times do we hear people beyond child-bearing years talk about abortions or folks who don’t recycle rant about global warming? These topics don’t affect their own lives, but it’s important to bring them up when stating why they like (or do not like) a candidate.

Let’s be honest: there will always be people who find ways to take advantage of public services and welfare and no one can completely strip American citizens of their guns in one or even two presidential terms. No one (credible) sincerely believes this stuff’s going to change if his or her candidate of choice gets elected.

Still, the debates ensue. I posted a photo on facebook of President Obama sharing a moment with his family that suggested it’s ironic the GOP and its “family-first” agenda sees no problem replacing him with Newt Gingrich, labeled a “serial adulterer.” A few hours later, a member of my family brought up Bill Clinton in a comment on the photo.

Since Bill Clinton isn’t running for office, it’s hard not to assume the underlying rebuttal was Democrats also cheat on their wives. Just like that, the Obama-Gingrich debate I was going for turned Republican-Democrat.

My team versus your team.

Let’s be fair, though. I am just as guilty of this as the next guy. I’d never vote for a person strictly because of his or her family values, but I’m happy to point out the shortcomings of an opposing candidate in that department. As soon as I hear “Mitt Romney,” the words “kooky Mormon” come to mind … but I sincerely believe a president should keep his or her religious beliefs out of their work in an effort to respect the melting pot of faiths America is. Shamefully, I must admit feeling a certain degree of achievement whenever my candidate gets elected or a rival co-worker/friend/family member’s candidate gets booted out.

It becomes easier to see the sports-politics parallel when one considers local elections. Do county commissioners, sheriffs, city councilmen and women, coroners, school board members and mayors have enough power to truly affect our lives? They may be in position raise taxes a couple of cents per day or bring jobs no one’s guaranteed to get, but these elected officials will never have the power to determine someone’s success in life. That will always be left up to an individual.

Yet, we still care. Deeply, passionately. Even when it comes to the coroner’s office. (Think about that one a moment.)

Hopefully people amid this election season hoopla remember we will always dictate our paths life, not an elected offical. It’s fun to debate, fulfilling to sound knowledgeable and interesting to follow the entire story, but it’s the spirit of competition – not the threat of unemployment, molestation or death – that’s driving us to support our candidate.

Be a good sport.

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