Winning and Choking Against the Odds

It seems to me the Democrats and Atlanta Falcons are analogous. Both should have won. Both lost in the most bizarre way.

For Trump to win the election (after being a huge underdog), and the Patriots to win the Super Bowl (after being down by a record number of points), Trump and the Patriots had to do a dozen things or so perfectly, not just well, but perfectly. And the Democrats and the Atlanta Falcons had to do a half-dozen things pretty good to stop them—not perfectly, just pretty well.

But Trump and the Patriots were perfect where it mattered, and the Democrats and the Falcons weren’t even pretty good where it mattered.

The Patriots, for example, had to make two, two-point conversions after touchdowns. They couldn’t have just a good try or close call, they had to make both of them. They did. They had to score touchdowns every time they had the ball down the stretch, not merely field goals. And they did. The had to avoid turnovers, and they did.

Trump had to beat every Republican opponent in the primaries and then still manage to gain Republican support. He had to have an appealing theme to traditionally Democratic stalwarts—blue collar workers. He did—keep jobs and create new ones. He needed to be seen as being besieged by the media, a victim. He needed to avoid in-depth discussions of how he would implement wild-sounding policies (Mexico paying for a wall). He did all that. He need the key, high-electoral vote states that could go either way, not the popular vote. He won every one of them.

The Falcons simply had to score another field goal, or prevent the Patriots from getting the ball (use more of the clock), or avoid costly penalties, or avoid turnovers, or stop one of the two, two-point conversions. They accomplished none of that. Their owner came down to the field with his wife in the third quarter to celebrate the win. The game isn’t won by who has the lead in the third quarter, but by who has the lead after the game ends. The same holds true for electoral votes.

The Democrats simply had to avoid scandal, yet they were seen to aggressively undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign, have Donna Brazile leak debate questions to Clinton, and have  Clinton label Trump supporters as “deplorable.” They merely had to avoid arrogance, yet they assumed minorities, women, and blue collar workers would turn out in force for her, yet they didn’t. Clinton merely had to appeal as far more likable (less unfavorable) than Trump, who had huge unfavorable ratings, yet she couldn’t, at all. They merely had to win one or two of the high-electoral vote states that were in play, and they couldn’t win any of them.

When it takes near-perfection for one side to win and the other side can’t even manage the decent game it needed to win, it tells you about the perseverance and resilience of the former and the hubris and failure of focus of the latter.

The Falcons and the Clintons are off the field. The former might get another chance, the latter will not. There are no “participation prizes” in the big leagues, and we ought to stop pretending with out children that there are. You play to win.

© Alan Weiss 2017


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