- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

Neutral fields

Whether watching the Boston Red Sox sweep the World Series or the Washington Redskins crawl their way back to the Super Bowl, a sporting event is the one arena in which a person is not subjected to partisan politics.

A political-free zone, if you will, where Democrats and Republicans, for a few hours at least, put their political differences aside. Instead of chanting “Four more years” or “Kerry US Forward,” they are united, hoisting identical placards that read “Reverse Bambino’s curse” or “Bring back the Hogs.”

Sports, President Bush says, and the sanctuaries of their play, are a means to reach people of all political persuasions.

“The idea of people watching sports and cheering for a team is … part of the social fabric,” the president states in the just-released book, “The Games Do Count: America’s Best and Brightest on the Power of Sports,” by Fox News Channel morning host and sportscaster Brian Kilmeade.

And don’t think for a minute that when the Republican-minded Bush clan comes together for a family reunion that the latest antics of the Democratic Party are discussed.

“As a family, we may be involved in politics, but when we get together, the talk is usually about sports,” says Mr. Bush, once a part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. “The fish we caught, the golf we played, things like that.”

Similarly, Mr. Bush has come to learn that sporting events know no international boundaries, and that discussing sports with various heads of state beforehand helps break down barriers.

“I like to find out what sports different world leaders played before I meet them,” the president reveals.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, interviewed in the same book along with fellow sports enthusiasts like Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, J.Dennis Hastert and Joseph R. BidenJr., says participating in myriad sports in his early years taught him the values of discipline and adversity.

“You can’t play sports without losing sometimes, and in losing you learn something about grace and how to act under pressure,” Mr. Kerry says. “These are all things that can help you later in life. I think it made me a better naval officer and a better warrior. In fact, it taught me a lot about politics.”

Language guardian?

Outside the sporting venue, it’s politics as usual.

Take this past weekend, when President Bush directed his campaign motorcade to make a U-turn into the empty parking lot of Wisconsin’s Lambeau Field, home to the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s nice to be at Lambeau Field,” Mr. Bush told a few bystanders, not the least being the White House correspondents who trailed him.

“It’s good to be at LamBEAU,” he repeated, emphasis on the second syllable.

That made the reason for the brief stop all the more clear. It was the president’s way of reminding football fans, many of whom vote, that his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, referred to it as Lambert Field.

Headless horseman

Nobody was more delighted than historian David Hackett Fischer when former presidential adviser and commentator David Gergen described a defeated Democratic candidate as “an economic Paul Revere.”

Whether Mr. Gergen intended it to mean a heroic messenger of alarm, or a messenger who failed to reach his destination, did not matter. Mere mention of Paul Revere was enough for Mr. Fischer to cite the phrase on the very first page of his book, “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

It’s a 445-page historical adventure that this columnist’s high school daughter, Kerry, was recently assigned to read by her teacher. And when she was finished, she passed it to me because, frankly, I knew very little, if anything, about Paul Revere. Now I understand why.

Mr. Fischer, the Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University (He’s written two books this year, “Washington’s Crossing,” just nominated for a National Book Award, and his latest, “Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas,” released on Oct. 28), reveals in the introduction:

“Professional historians have shown so little interest in the subject that in two centuries no scholar has published a full-scale history of Paul Revere’s ride. During the 1970s, the event disappeared so completely from academic scholarship that several leading college textbooks in American history made no reference to it at all.”

The cause for such neglect?

Mr. Fischer cites “a broad prejudice in American universities against patriotic events of every kind,” reinforced by “popular movements called multiculturalism and political correctness.”

“As this volume goes to press,” the professor notes, “the only creature less fashionable in academe than the stereotypical ‘dead white male,’ is a dead white male on horseback.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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