Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bill Clinton: The Larry Bird of Politics

Bill Clinton was on Letterman this week and it was almost making me weepy for the days when we were guided by a competent leader. (Here are links to the three segments in case you missed them - 1, 2, 3) Oh, to actually have his intelligence in the White House now. I dare say we’d feel like a totally different country. It wouldn’t solve all of today’s problems, but it might mute the blows a little.

He was so articulate and intelligent about the financial crisis and how we got into it. You just know he gets it in a way that few do, definitely more than the lay man (including Dave himself) and certainly more than anyone currently in office. I realize he was no saint when he ran the country, and he carried his own gaggle of detractors. It’s only in hindsight that we realize what we had, now that his likes seem almost antiquated.

He reminded me of Larry Bird. In the Bird vs. Magic show of the 80s, I was totally a Magic man. Bird was ugly and unsophisticated. He lacked any noticeable charisma. He could play like crazy, but skills on a white guy just don’t resonate. They’re boring. I hated Bird when he played. Hated just looking at him.

Now, when I see footage of him on ESPN Classic or something, my stomach aches for the days when players (white people!) played with fundamentals and downplayed the showtime. The closest player the NBA has to someone as fundamentally sound as Bird is Tim Duncan and he’s no fun to root for either! Soon enough, the day will come when Tim retires and it will usher in the absolute end of nuanced basketball played the “Jimmy Chitwood” way. The streets rule today and the streets are all about the individual. Pick up games are not a team concept, they are individualistic in nature. And SportsCenter, while being totally necessary, may be as big a detriment to basketball as steroids are to baseball and MTV is to music. It tips the scales in favor of the star and eliminates the team. This then leads to bigger individual stars, bigger contracts, no team loyalty, and horrible indulgences like Kazaam.

My point is, we don’t know what we have til it’s gone. Bill Clinton looks near to deity by today’s standards. Same with Larry Bird. They had their issues when they “played” and could be piggish, arrogant, and unlikable. But, damn if they weren’t fundamentally sound.

P.S. If you watch the links to the Clinton interview, check out Chris Rock's critique. He was the next guest. Hilarious and dead on. Like I said, Bill isn't perfect and Chris nails him.


AnnieB said...

I love the analogy Jon, although I don't love Clinton. He's certainly suave and very educated (which I love), but I have a hard time getting over his moral judgement. (an intern(s)? in the oval office? under his desk? seriously! how cliche!--you have to admit, he was a little distracted!)
Sadly, I'm beginning to realize that a good president doesn't necessarily mean a good man. (not that either of our candidates are not good men--they are) But, knowledge, action, conviction, judgement...these attributes are meaning much more to me now.
I'm excited for the debates tonight!!

Eric Petersen said...

While I didn’t like Clinton when he was in office, or care for him much after, your point it well taken that we need a leader that looks, acts, sounds like they know what they are doing. We need a leader that exudes confidence.