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In Football and Politics Good Judgment Wins Games

September 15, 2009

There are many similarities between football and politics - although winning or losing usually comes down to who has the best judgment - not the best personnel.

For example, followers of the Notre Dame football team suffered yet another disappointment Saturday, September 13, as the then-18th ranked Fighting Irish were upset by the unheralded Michigan Wolverines.

In the final two minutes of the game - Notre Dame held the lead and the ball - and fans thought killing the clock would be top priority for coach Charlie Weis. Yet Weis - who learned the game from some of the best coaches in the National Football League - called risky pass plays which neither worked nor ran the clock out.

When Michigan got the ball back they were able to move down the field to score the winning touchdown with seconds remaining.

By all accounts Weis is a solid individual and a brilliant and principled coach - and he is said to have one of the highest Intelligence Quotients (IQ) of any college football coach in the country. Yet he remains - by Notre Dame standards - a failed coach.

Many are now saying his downfall lies in the fact that he did not actually play the game - in college or professionally - he learned the entirety of the game in theory - not in practice. Thus when a game is tight - and one’s personal experience is the best teacher - he has nothing to draw from to close the deal.

In politics the stakes are much higher than winning or losing a football game. The confidence of the nation hinges on solid appointments and the sound judgment of the men and woman who serve the country in elected and appointed positions.

The recent presidential appointment of Van Jones - Yale graduate and community activist - to the position of Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the White House is an example of where political and educational pedigree prevailed in his selection - and the clear result was the appointment of an individual unqualified to serve the varied needs of the American people.

The Jones appointment looked good on paper - but when his background and past controversial statements began to surface in the news media - he, too, had very little to draw from to convince his detractors that he was up to the job - in both judgment and personal experience.

For the record, he was forced to resign when it became known that he made bizarre and unsubstantiated remarks about certain Republican members of Congress - and affiliated himself with Socialistic organizations. But it was his sympathy with the "9-11 Truth Movement" – which espouses the outrageous theory that the United States government was responsible for and complicit in the deadly 9-11 terrorist attacks that clearly crossed the line with the American people.

Sure he apologized for signing the 9-11Truth petition, and he thought that should be good enough for the American people to save his job. No, apologizing for forgetting the name of an important member of Congress saves one’s job – not insinuating that the U.S. government murdered 3,000 of its own citizens to start foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That is reprehensibly poor judgment - and no doubt Jones missed those classes at Yale.

Much like the Notre Dame football fans - who expect their coach to be smart - and win games on Saturday afternoon - the American people expect their presidential appointees to have a solid educational background – and possess sound judgment.

It is the latter that Jones so obviously lacked - and while no one paid much attention to his strange opinions and affiliations as a private citizen - once in the public arena - the people’s expectations of their public servants increases exponentially.

Unfortunately, we continue to be a society which places way too much emphasis on the quality of one’s education - and fails to recognize the importance of the quality of one’s judgment.

Truth is - that’s what determines the outcome of the game.

In politics and football.