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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2008

In political contests, just as in sports, sore losers stink

BY REG HENRY

COMRADES, when the dreaded socialism descends on America courtesy of the Obama administration - which, by the way, is the most ridiculous delusion to sweep the land since the Y2K scare - I hope team sports become mandatory.

Team sports teach important life lessons, especially about winning and losing: To wit: Don't be a loser when you win but be a winner when you lose. In other words, act with a little class, win or lose. And, oh yes, keep a sense of humor.

Apparently, it is a difficult concept for some folks to grasp, presumably because they never had malevolent bruisers with missing teeth pound them into a pulp and then smile and shake hands after the game is done.

The game is done in the presidential election, too, save for the presentation of the trophy, but some people pound on. This is not right. These sore losers should be rounded up and required to join hockey or rugby teams so they can learn some character. If all else fails, they should be made to join women's paddle tennis teams, where the politics resembles Zimbabwe without the gentility.

In my sporting life, I long ago became an expert in losing. Readers recognize my expertise in this field and I often get supportive e-mails that say: "You are the biggest loser in Pittsburgh." Of course, I blush with modesty but I have to admit I know something about losing and the proper way to behave in defeat. Jeez, I've had enough practice.

To be fair, most on the losing side this year have been gracious without any help from me. They were led from the start by the example of Sen. John McCain with his good-hearted concession speech. President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush also were the model of civility when the Obamas visited the White House this week. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain understand sports and the ethic of leaving it all on the field of play.

But even as Mr. McCain spoke, some of his supporters couldn't quite let go of their boorishness and ill will, presumably because their only sport in school was croquet or Ping-Pong, which typically do not attract any dentally challenged bruisers to help build sporting character.

Even now, some diehard conservatives keep up their sulky whining, predicting dire consequences for the republic because the majority of the voters acted in a way they considered flagrantly unpatriotic - i.e., they did not support their candidate. Deaf to the final buzzer, they rehash all the old plays that were so recently found wanting.

This has to stop. It serves only to perpetuate the notion, perhaps erroneous but perhaps not, that the losing side was composed largely of the bitter, the old, and the cranky - not the best image to attract those frisky younger voters in the future.

Withholding the final handshake is also unnecessary. Sports is all about ups and downs, and so is politics. Every victory brings the seeds of a future defeat, as the One Great Scorer knows full well because it was he who devised the game and watches it unfold up there in the grandstand in the sky.

That is why I will not publicly exult over Mr. Obama's victory. I restrict myself to making private whoo, whoo, whoo sounds in the company of consenting adults. I will certainly not employ the charming little phrase that in 2000 and 2004 was in the mouths of those who now live in dread of socialism/Marxism - "Get over it!" They will get over it fine because they do not know what a silver lining this cloud presents. I'm sure His Largeness Rush Limbaugh knows. As irritated as he may be with the election result, the days of wine and roses will arrive for him with the Obama administration. Unless you are the Steelers, playing offense is more agreeable than playing defense.

Also, the Obama administration will have many chances to screw up - not only because Democrats possess a natural talent for screwing up but because of the scale of the challenge. Dr. Seuss in The Cat in the Hat might have been writing about our present day: "And this mess is so big/ And so deep and so tall/ We can not pick it up/ There is no way at all."

The truth is, everybody ought to be humble after this election. Once the game resumes - and Mr. Obama has actually done something - catcalls from the cheap seats will be entirely sporting and appropriate. Those yelling now should leave the stadium as the confirmed losers they are. They won't get socialism, but a little socialization with good sports wouldn't hurt.

Reg Henry is deputy editorial page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: rhenry@post-gazette.com



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