Are You Ready For Some Football?
"The present life is naught but a diversion and a sport; surely the Last Abode is Life, did they but know." -- The Holy Koran, Chapter 29, Verse 64
After last week's Patriots-Colts game, I'm expecting the Super Bowl to be anticlimactic. I still plan to watch it because it's the Bears and Colts. Classic match-up. And, like most red-blooded American males, I love sports!
That said, it's annoying and deceptive to be promiscuous with sports analogies in politics. I'm not opposed to all sports analogies -- just some of the more popular ones we hear on the regular, like "the best defense is a good offense," in the words of the gridiron gurus and the diminishing Iraq war cheerleading squad. Surge, surge, surge ...Yeaaaaaay, surge!
First of all, not even in sports is it true that superior offense leads to victory. Think about the great Super Bowl teams -- the Steelers of the 70s, 49ers of the 80s and 90s, the Cowboys of the 90s, and the Patriots of today. Superior 'D' won the ring -- a lesson learned by the Pats after facing Buddy Ryan's 4-6 defense in '86.
In baseball, it's all about pitching. World Series are won with defense, which became apparent to me in '88 when my Oakland A's -- with the "Bash Brothers" line-up (one of the best in the history of the game) -- got a spanking at the hands of the Dodgers' superior pitching staff, anchored by Orel Herschieser.
Basketball? Same story, which is why Phoenix and Dallas haven't won a championship yet. All offense. No 'D.'
Sure, there's a nugget of truth in the offense-first approach. Three words: Time of possession. Superior offense can lead to victory in a 60-minute football game, if your offense is on the field longer than your opponent. More T.O.P. provides more scoring opportunities. But shock-and-awe offense only works when time limits are imposed.
In the real world of war and politics, there is no time limit. Despite calls for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable, there's no real game clock in Iraq. Superior offense, which we have, can easily "win" conventional wars but when you're dealing with a guerrilla insurgency, their goal is to encourage offense. It generates popular support among the locals with the rope-a-dope style.
As Ali demonstrated when he turned Foreman into a fat-free grill salesman, guerrillas have patience. Arab guerrillas have generational patience. Look at the Israeli-Palestinian beef. A few years ago, when I was in the West Bank, I asked a Palestinian farmer what he thought the prospects were for a Palestinian state, side-by-side with Israel. He didn't think he'd see it in his lifetime.
As an American, I thought about how little patience we have in our gotta-have-it-now culture. Then the farmer started talking about how his people have been through a thousand years of occupations. And without an ounce of exasperation in his voice, he said, "we can wait another 1,000 years if we have to."
That's why there's NO military solution to guerrilla insurgencies, short of genocide.
Guerrillas don't put on uniforms and walk out onto the battlefield to get mowed down by superior American firepower like those stiff upper-lipped British soldiers who marched in neat little formations, making it easy for American revolutionaries to pick them off.
"The best defense is a good offense" may work in football, but in a war waged with finite resources unbound by a game clock, it's a good way to decimate your military and drain life-sustaining domestic resources; while providing free propaganda for terrorist recruiters.
So, next time some Bill O'Reilly parrot is going through his Iraq war talking points and drops "the best defense is a good offense" analogy, you'll know you're dealing with someone not qualified to coach Pop Warner.
Then again, Russell Baker makes a good point: "In America, it is sport that is the opiate of the masses."