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From the politics of sport to the sport of politics

The Olympics are over, and the political conventions have begun. It is a dream season for people like me who love sports and politics. Well, at least it should be, except the conventions are hardly worth watching any more. I wish I knew what it was like when conventions actually included floor fights over candidates and serious debates about the party platform. Instead, we now get a few prime time hours over the course of four days filled with speeches by spouses and party icons the presidential candidate wants to suck up to (See: DNC schedule, Monday-Wednesday). Seriously, I am not going to base my vote for the highest office in the land on what a guy's wife says about him. I don't care if it's Michelle Obama or Cindy McCain. (And if a woman were the nominee, I wouldn't want to hear from her husband, either) I'd rather hear speeches on substantive issues. And if I see one more tribute to Ronald Regan or any member of the Kennedy family, I'm gonna scream.

In all seriousness, the opening ceremony of the Olympics probably included more significant politics than either (or both) convention will. Remember President Bush standing in the aisle in the Bird's Nest a couple weeks ago talking to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about the moving of Russian troops into Georgia? Don't expect anything so serious in Denver or the Twin Cities.

Not only is the politicking virtually gone from the conventions, so is the sense of surprise and excitement. Rare nowadays are the great moments, like Ann Richards' "Poor George" speech at the DNC in 1988. Or Democrat Zell Miller giving a fire and brimstone speech at the Republican Convention four years ago. Oh, where, oh, where, has the smoke-filled room gone? It's probably been replaces by green-tea-and-soy-latte-filled room in this feel-good age.

Regardless of what party you support, here's what you can expect this week and next:

  • Speeches raising the party's nominee to messianic levels
  • Speeches lowering the other party's nominee to sub-human level
  • Rhetoric that preys on the lowest common denominator that makes up each party's fiercest, most loyal and most narrow-minded base
  • Big fancy stages with video boards, confetti and balloons
  • An incredible dearth of truly valuable information

Perhaps I would be less cynical about this if the campaign were not some two years old. In the past I've been excited about seeing both party's conventions, for both the sizzle and the steak. But after all we've been through as an electorate, I don't think the next 70 days can pass quickly enough.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo


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