When Politics and Baseball Collide

If you had told me 12 years ago that a day would come when I would know who was playing in the American League Champion Series--much less care--I'd have laughed aloud.

I lost my last vestige of interest in professional sports about the same time the Toronto Maple Leafs stopped winning Stanley Cups. Friends were surprised, sometimes irritated, by my indifference to sports. At least my wife was pleased: Here at least was one positive attribute to balance against my many, many other deficiencies as a husband.

All of that changed when my son Nathaniel at age six discovered baseball, and the New York Yankees came into our lives. "Why the Yankees?" is a question to which Nat has never offered a very satisfactory answer. He lived in New York for all of four months, through which entire time he could not walk, let alone handle a remote control.

Ridiculous to think that the party affiliation of the president could sway the performance of a sports franchise!

Whatever the origin of the infatuation, a lifelong decision had been made. My son's mental health would rise or fall on the ability of a far-away bench of multi-millionaires to hit a ball with a stick.

In our household, there was one special complicating factor. Since the Eisenhower administration half a century ago, the Yankees have never won a World Series with a Republican in the White House.

Nathaniel was inclined to favour the Republican, George W. Bush, and not only because his parents did. He had heard a speech of George Bush's on television. The speech had addressed the subject of education, and it had included the phrase: "No school across America . . . " Nathaniel did not need to hear one syllable more. He was sold.

But--what if the old rule held true? Would a Bush presidency doom his team. "It's just a coincidence," I insisted.

The rule did hold true. The Yankees, so dominant in the 1990s, fell apart almost as soon as the ballots were recounted in Florida. Year in, year out, they lost and lost again. In 2004, the hated Red Sox up ended them in the American League pennant race--and went on to win the World Series. I happened to be in Boston on the night the Red Sox gained the prize. I can still hear, in painful memory, the sounds of the triumphant car horns in the streets below.

Not that I cared personally. I didn't, still don't. But Nat did, and so his mother and I had to. Every autumn through the Bush years, his mother would deliver pep talks, cheering him out of his gloom. And then finally: It was election year 2008. Decision time.

Nat had little use for Barack Obama as a man or candidate: "Making this guy president of the United States is like promoting a little league coach to run a professional league team." Besides, he wasn't old enough to understand the difference between causation and correlation. Ridiculous to think that the party affiliation of the president could sway the performance of a sports franchise!

But now . . . who can be sure? Under the first Democratic president in a decade, the Yankees are heading toward their first championship in a decade.

Gallup has a new poll this week showing another decline in public support for President Obama. The President deserves his lowered numbers too. That stunt abrogating contracts with executives of financial companies alone should knock him down five points. Unemployment is rising, the U.S. dollar is tumbling, Afghanistan is disintegrating, his health-care plans cost too much and his failure to put together a coherent bank-rescue plan is deepening and extending the recession.

On the other hand . . .

Nat and I made the trip to see Game 2 against the Minnesota Twins. As usual, I was bored for most of the first half. But then . . . things got tense. Exciting. And the look on Nat's face when Alex Rodriguez hit a game-saving home run in the 9th inning? The Mastercard people could have made a whole commercial out of that.

I still understand that it's all coincidence. Even Nat understands. Still--if this particular coincidence does reassert itself for the Yankees in 2009--well in that case, I despair of recovering Nat's vote for the Grand Old Party ever again.

David Frum is a resident fellow at AEI.

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About the Author


  • David Frum is the author of six books, most recently, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again (Doubleday, 2007). While at AEI, he studied recent political, generational, and demographic trends. In 2007, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph named him one of America's fifty most influential conservatives. Mr. Frum is a regular commentator on public radio's Marketplace and a columnist for The Week and Canada's National Post.

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