"Politics," Gov. Chris Christie said during his two-hour press conference on Thursday, "ain't beanbag." Fine, we get it, we've heard this a million times. So what sport or game is politics?
In order to answer that question, we should revisit what "beanbag" itself is, a topic The Wire addressed in January 2012. (At that point, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were not playing beanbag in the Republican primaries.) Beanbag, it turns out, is a game that kids, mostly girls, played in the late 19th century. So when politicians say politics isn't beanbag, they're saying that it is not a game for wimpy Victorian-era girls in petticoats. It is, rather, a rough-and-tumble sport for tough guys like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Politics is rugby.
There are few sports tougher than rugby. Burly guys throwing each other around in the struggle to carry or kick the ball past the goal line. (At this point I will admit that I don't really know much about rugby beyond that.) Players get covered in mud — like in politics — and they represent teams that gradually rack up more and more points — also like in politics. Bones are broken; fortunes lost.
Except that, you know, politicians aren't really all that tough. They love to pretend that they are, snarling about how they're going to punish their enemies and hear the lamentations of their constituents and so on. But winning a procedural vote while sitting in a high-backed chair is is a lot more beanbag than beanball.
Politics is football.
There you go. Some padding, some clearly defined rules, lots of refs. You still get to push people around, but then the whistle blows and, if you need to, you can head to the sideline for some Gatorade. And, unlike rugby, you can draw a crowd. The final contest each year (it is called the "Super Bowl") draws a massive audience, heavily laced with corporate sponsors. That sounds a bit like politics, no?
Well, except that we might be taking the "team" thing a little far. Politicians suit up in red and blue uniforms because it gets them into the game, but, as Romney and Gingrich showed, they also spend a lot of time fighting between themselves. It's as though the New York Giants lined up for the snap, and center Jim Cordle turned around and knocked Eli Manning right on his back (which he probably should have).
Since it's more often a one-to-one thing:
Politics is Olympic boxing.
Big padded helmets, big cushy gloves, but lots of opportunities to throw punches. Still a real opportunity to land blows. And at the end of the day, you're doing it for the greater glory of your country.
Although, politicians, with the exception of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, don't actually know anything about boxing. I get that the "beanbag" thing is supposed to be a metaphor, but there exist games and sports that are actually closer analogues to the world of politics, the deliberate, bloodless back-and-forth that sees incremental shifts in power and completely reversible damage. Like:
Politics is chess.
Checkmates, black-and-white, pawns. That sounds about right.
Strategy, foresight, intellect. That doesn't.
So maybe not chess. Something a little simpler, more reliant on chance.
Politics is Sorry!
Remember Sorry? In Sorry, you draw a card that tells you how far to move, offering the occasional chance to knock your opponents back to their starting places. Sometimes, you'll draw a "Sorry!" card, which lets you — like the unfeeling finger of God — simply pluck an opponent off the board. You're supposed to then offer a false apology — "sorry!" — which also seems fitting. Nearly everything is out of your control, but the things that are act primarily as ways of screwing over your opponents. Pretty on-the-nose. And it is fun to say "Politics is Sorry."
Except. Except that it also requires four players, ideally. It's not the one-to-one match-up we predicated this whole thing on. And, frankly, it's a little too wholesome. Perhaps, then:
Politics is cornhole.
Cornhole, you coastal elites (like me) might not know, is a game in which two or more drunk Ohio State guys go out behind the Sigma Alpha Mu house and try and throw a little sack through a hole cut in a board. It involves:
- One-on-one competition or teams
- Talking smack
- Keeping track of the points you score
- Psychological warfare
- Wholesome real-America values
And there is zero percent chance you get hurt, unless you do it to yourself or get in an actual fistfight. Perfect.
But since "cornhole" as a term is still not widely known in the broader world, we just use the shorthand for those little sacks you toss. So:
Politics is beanbag.
Please inform any elected officials in your vicinity.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.