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The Republican Vision

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
Bobby Bowden

Bobby Bowden

The daily sports article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, titled “Why Your Coach Votes Republican” focused on the conservative nature of many NFL and major college football coaches. I’ve been happily ignoring the approach of football season, and ignoring all the more these overpaid preeners, but no more. The college season is upon us, with controversy created already in Boise State’s victory over Oregon. Here in Seattle — I’ll be in New York by then — my own team hosts LSU tomorrow night.

But back to the WSJ, from which we learn that “[s]ome coaches display their largely conservative instincts in non-financial ways. Jack Del Rio of the NFL’s Jaguars led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance at a Sarah Palin rally in Jacksonville last fall. Longtime Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs addressed last summer’s Republican National Convention. Lou Holtz fired up congressional Republicans with a pep talk in 2007 and recently flirted with running for Congress in Florida. Ralph Friedgen, the portly University of Maryland coach, good-naturedly called one of his Canadian players a socialist last fall.”

Let’s dig a little deeper.

[C]ould it be that football coaches, just by the nature of the job, are more comfortable on the right end of the political spectrum?

“I’d say that sounds likely—very likely,” said Bobby Bowden, the longtime Florida State coach and an outspoken Republican.

Mr. Bowden, a 79-year-old native Alabaman, describes himself as a lifelong conservative who—like many white Southerners of his generation—migrated from the Democratic Party to the GOP a few decades ago. There is, he says, a natural connection between his political and coaching philosophies.

“In coaching, you’ve got to have more discipline and you’ve got to be more strict and just conservative, I think. It fits with the Republicans,” he said.

Mr. Holtz, who coached Notre Dame to its last national championship in 1988, draws a parallel between the standards and rules that most coaches set for their players and the Republican vision of how American society ought to operate.

“You aren’t entitled to anything. You don’t inherit anything. You get what you earn—your position on the team,” Mr. Holtz said. “You’re treated like everybody else. You’re held accountable for your actions. You understand that your decisions affect other people on that team…There’s winners, there’s losers, and there’s competitiveness.”

So let’s see. Republicanism correlates with the belief that people should be treated equally — competing on a level playing field and having to earn what they get rather than inheriting it.


Perhaps it is worth observing that Bobby Bowden’s son Tommy was head coach at Clemson for a decade, before being fired last October. Here in Seattle, the coach of our NFL Seahawks is Jim Mora, son of another NFL coach, also named Jim Mora (and famous for his “Playoffs?” rant).

And while we’re at it, let’s not under-estimate the role inheritance has played in political success in this country, whatever the party. On the Republican side, need one say more than “Bush”? In what universe would George W. Bush have become president without his father leading the way. For that matter, the same statement applies to George H.W. Bush.

As usual when it comes to just about any issue in politics, Glenn Greenwald says what needs saying better than I ever could. Last Sunday, he wrote about American royalty in response to the news that Jenna Bush Hager had been hired to be a correspondent on NBC’s Today Show.

They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it’s really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There’s a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters.


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