Friday, October 17, 2008
Hitting the politics and football metaphor one more time.
I've been looking at football statistics since I was in high school, which is a hella long time ago. My website Unified Football Theory is my attempt to make sense of what I've gleaned from years of research, though it is still a work in progress.
What I know is that no statistical measurement now used does a very good job of predicting the winner of the game, except for the obvious measure of who scores the most points. Back in high school, when I started this quest with rudimentary understanding of math, my friend Andy Reid and I realized that one of the worst predictors was what the commentators would sometimes call "the all-important time of possession", which we changed to "the unimportant time of possession". It's certainly useful sometimes, but often games are won by teams that score quickly, especially on returns of punts or kickoffs or fumbles or interceptions, and those plays add points to the board and nothing to an offensive squad's time of possession numbers.
A few weeks ago I had a post about quarterbacks and presidents, that some presidents get more credit and more blame than they deserve quite often for the economy under their watch, but that Bush's push for low interest rates and massive increases in home ownership when we have had a negative savings rate for many years means he deserves to wear the goat horns in my book. Let's stretch the metaphor to the campaign, shall we?
What is Obama's strategy? Simply enough, it's the word change. He called dibs two years ago, and it was a Number One Pick in the draft, with a good chance of becoming the Super Bowl MVP, now that the campaign is late in the fourth quarter. It's such a good strategy, John McCain has an ad out right now where he looks into the camera and says, "The last eight years haven't worked very well, have they?"
Dude, that's not a campaign ad. That's a concession speech.
There are some people who think the McCain campaign has no strategy, just tactics, but I see a pattern in the tactics, and I will call it time of possession. McCain whined before the Republican Convention about how much press Obama was getting, and how most of it was favorable. He called Obama "a celebrity" and made it look like the ability to draw large crowds was a weakness and a sign of lack of seriousness.
Then, after Obama's speech in Denver where he filled a football stadium with supporters, the McCain strategy for the final two months became clear. Every day, the McCain campaign has tried to dominate the 24-hour news cycle. It's all about throwing stuff out and hoping something sticks. They don't even care about most of this stuff, but they keep throwing and praying. Some things turns out to be duds, or some have even blown up in their face in the 24-hour news cycle after they are introduced. Dominate the next 24 hours is their only goal. Have the press discuss the topic the campaign wants to discuss.
Sarah Palin. Lipstick on pit bulls. Lipstick on pigs. William Ayers. Joe the Plumber. Suspending the campaign. ACORN. John Lewis. Anything but the real issues and anything but the trend and mood of the electorate.
Because the trend is very, very bad for the Republicans right now. Again, as a gambler, I must warn anyone reading this to NOT CELEBRATE EARLY. For any football fans, I think the phrase 1993 Oiler-Bills playoff game will get my point across, and there's a link for those unclear on the concept.
So that's the Republican strategy, time of possession. It doesn't always work, especially if you do it as badly as they have so far, but it does at least qualify as a strategy.