Friday, September 19, 2008

Fantasy Football - A Metaphor for Voting?

It's a fairly well-known rule of thumb in Fantasy Football that, when drafting a running back you should also draft his backup. This is called "handcuffing". If you are lucky enough to draft LaDainlian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers (arguably the best back in the league) you should also draft fellow Charger RB Darren Sproles and "handcuff" them together. That way if Tomlinson ever goes down with injury and has to sit out a game or two, you already have his backup ready to fill in his spot in your lineup.

Now, I've always found this practice a little odd since you never know if their backup is any good - if Tomlinson goes down, the Chargers could go to a more pass-oriented offense in his absence and Sproles may not do squat. I've always simply drafted the 2-3 best RB's available in the league at that moment and assumed one of them would always be playing. That way your 1-2 combination are always 1st string backs.

Of course, choosing this way handcuffs yourself because you miss out on some options for decent back-ups. If, say, Jonathan Stuart of the Panthers were available when your turn came around wouldn't you be much better off drafting him as a backup to Tomlinson than his real-life one, Sproles?

But some people do that, and the only reason I can figure out is they expect their top RB to be injured sometime in the season and want to make absolutely sure they have a replacement in the wings ready to take over. So instead of choosing a top RB for his full skill-set, they handicap themselves assuming he's going to check out for a while and fall all over themselves ensuring the backup is right there and ready to take over.

Ok, long, long football analogy to explain this. A lot of people criticize the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP choice because, well, to put it bluntly McCain's an old dude and might die in office. They don't believe Palin's ready or qualified to step in and be president in the event of McCain's death. I have no quarrel with anyone's opinion of Palin's readiness to take over (although you have to admit being governor of a state - any state - at least has provided a good deal of administrative experience. So she wouldn't be going into it cold at least). Still, the point is they seem to be taking it for granted that McCain's going to kick it a year or so into office and Palin needs to be a quality back-up to go in and lead the team to victory. But they don't think she's a Jonathan Stuart. Or even a Darren Sproles. They think she's the equivalent of the 5th string rookie RB on the practice squad that should never play in a real game because he fumbles all the time. And that's fine, too, as I said everyone is entitled to their opinion of Palin's qualifications and experience.

I just don't think you decide to choose against someone as the next leader of the free world because of what "might" happen to them. You choose them because of their qualities and ideas, and for what they will attempt to do while in office. To choose otherwise is foolish.

I don't care if the Second Coming of Abraham Lincoln was running as McCain's VP. You don't write off a presidential candidate based on the possibility they might croak in office and force the VP to take over.

Nor do you choose against a presidential candidate based on his age, unless you have seen ample evidence to convince you either his mind is not quite sharp enough, or his health is so bad that it's likely he won't live another four years. I think if we'd known about Reagan's mental decline in his second term (1985-88) like we do now, we wouldn't have been so quick to re-elect him to office. But again, that was a decision we would have made based on his ability to lead while in office, not what might happen if he died.

I'll try to wrap this up by putting this into football terms again. I see McCain as like LaDainlian Tomlinson from the Chargers. He's been the league a long time (for a RB) - drafted in 2001. Had his ups and downs, not the best back in the league anymore but has been pretty solid for San Diego over the years. His backup would be someone like Felix Jones - a rookie RB for the Cowboys, but toe-to-toe co-RB for Arkansas with Heisman Trophy winner Darren McFadden. Not quite as good, but still and excellent RB coming out of college.

Obama, by contrast, is Reggie Bush - 3rd year man out of USC with the Saints. Flashy, glitzy, lots of potential but still young and inexperienced. He's had trouble finding his groove with New Orleans and has been erratic (though this year looks promising for him). Biden would be like Edgerrin James of the Cardinals. Had some glory years with the Colts, been in the league since 1999, an aging once-star that's found some good years with Arizona.

So would you rather draft LaDainlian Tomlinson/Felix Jones or take your chances with Reggie Bush*/Edgerrin James? Depends on if it's very likely Tomlinson won't last the season and Jones has to take over, even though Tomlinson's potential point total will likely be much higher than Reggie Bush.

You have to be confident in the man (or woman) you elect and elect them for what they will do, not what might happen to them.

There's another analogy lurking there for those who fear Obama, if elected, is a prime target for white supremacist assassination. Not sure there's a good football analogy there, but there are some who choose against him for that reason as well. Both are good to take into consideration, but neither are good for making a final decision.

* Sorry - I just that moment realized I'd matched Obama up with a guy named Bush. That's pretty funny.

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