Joel Sherman – who, despite growing up a Cincinnati Reds fan, does a better job than anyone of giving a voice to New York baseball – called out Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio in his daily blog for Our Nation’s Newspaper of Record.
Attanasio, who is trying to lock up franchise cornerstone Prince Fielder to a long-term contract, complained that the Yankees spent a lot of money to pay their players. Sherman rightly observes that Attanasio uses the Yankees as a convenient straw man, much like a politician devoid of a message:
Look, I get it, we live in talk-radio world now. If you are failing your constituency then don’t take any personal responsibility just demonize an easy bogeyman. The Democrats do it to the Republicans, the Republicans do it to the Democrats, and in baseball, when you have no other answers blame the Yankees. …[P]ulling the Yankees into the Fielder discussion is either the act of a lazy mind or the act of an owner who wants to rile up his fan base so nobody notices his own failings.
At TechRepublican, Wesley Donahue makes a similar case against the “Fire Nancy Pelosi” messaging of many Republicans:
Last week I went to a “Listen and Learn” event in Charleston with S.C. Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd. What I heard was exactly what I’m hearing through emails and blog comments to all my clients. People want more than “No.” They want alternative plans.
Both baseball teams and politicians rely on a base of people whose support isn’t entirely rational. In politics, Candidates like Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama with pleasant personalities are able to gloss over policy differences. Sports fans will change their behavior to avoid jinxing their team.*
But in neither case is affection blind. The most diehard sports fans can endure losing seasons, if there’s some reason to hope their favorite team can either build a winner or at least be competitive (Redskins fans understand this, especially this week). But fans bases – and voters – lose interest when teams are stuck in the mud and going nowhere.
Nancy Pelosi and the Yankees are both easy targets. That doesn’t make them good long-term targets, though.
*Fun story: during the baseball playoffs last year, I texted disparaging, negative comments about the Yankees to both of my brothers during the games; each time I did, the Yankees came back to win. I even sent a text when one of my brothers was sitting in the same room, watching Game 3 of the World Series with me. My phone should have been named World Series MVP.
Sadly, the tactic proved ineffective for the New York Giants.