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The Angle of Vision : Forget politics; Let's play ball

Whitman wrote, "the game of ball is glorious." It teaches, revives, placates, unifies. It frames life. Being 11-years old means nothing to me - not until I think of it in terms of the Sooners' 1985 National Championship. Then I remember what it was to be ten. Six years old is like a J.C. Watts afro, and thirteen is teenage rage hurled at that bastard Danny Manning and his purloined title. The fall of the Berlin Wall? Switzer's last year.

Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty or give me death." Pete Rose: "I'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball." Come on! Screw liberty. Give me Charlie Hustle on a skewer!

Now, this is a good year to be a Sooner. It's been a pleasant autumn. But there's been a development. In Chicago, they say that politics is the number one spectator sport. I'm here to say that there's nothing like a nail-biting presidential contest between two exceedingly uninspiring puppets to fill up that soulless part of me that needs news, news, news every minute, every second. I'm scoreboard watching like it's the first round of March Madness. I loathe Al Gore so much that I've had to resort to writing "Bush sucks too" on the back of my hand each morning, lest I forget my independent status and subconsciously fashion myself a Republican. What the hell do I care which puppet lives on Pennsylvania Avenue? Does it really matter? Our political parties are remarkably canny at eliminating character from their ranks.

Yet the Leon County Circuit Court hearing provides the soundtrack for my composition. Why do I persist if it disgusts me so? Maybe it's the gamesmanship. Maybe it's in anticipation of someone saying something genuine. Or doing something noble and befitting the mythological import of their office.

One good thing about sports is that it redeems itself. Like all other spheres, there are villains. There's spin and shameless rhetoric. There's a whole lot of average too - mules performing the minutiae, below Attention's radar screen.

But then that average should serve as a canvas for genius. The great men and women in political life are dead, and in many ways, that decomposed condition probably allows them their greatness. Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jefferson, King, Jr. Politics has no living artists, no visionaries. No Pedro. No Marion Jones. No Tiger. These are giants walking on earth.

I don't really care about policies. I care about principles - policies issue from principles. If one's principles are material, his policies will transmogrify as the compensation dictates. If grounded on a higher plane, they will evidence their elevated parentage and humanize policy.

In the physical world for which he was made, Walter Peyton's principles were balance, explosiveness, intuition, durability. "Sweetness" could not have run in any other way. The governing principles of today's politicians are survival and ambition. This is the soil of their policy, the source of sour fruit.

Of course, athletes don't choose their principles, at least in terms of ability. Freedom of choice seems a corrupting agent for men and women of political power, at least at the national level. It renders principles relative and amorphous.

It is unfortunate that we must be disrespected by all the falsities of this political age. I laugh at the photos of partisan protesters pointing and squealing at one another. But more deeply, it saddens me that we must divide ourselves over such small men as Gore and Bush - and at their behest, driven by inflammatory rhetoric and orchestrated theater.

I resented Michael Jordan and wanted him to lose, but in the end he commanded my respect. He deserved everything he won, and I learned from watching him. He was good for sport, and all the people who love it.

I hope to see a noble president before I die. I can imagine greatness that inspires people to loosen their pressed grips on micro-policies, at least until their hands can pinken. Someone of great visionary circumference. Not another compromiser, but a unifier.

These wispy musings will have receded by February, and I surely will have retreated back to nightly Bristol broadcasts and starting rotations. When Justin Leonard sank the Europeans last October with a 40-foot prayer, all was right in the world. The Over-Soul had manifested itself in physical genius. It is too much to hope for the same in a soulless political climate.

Politics is a discounted sport, vacant of heroes. And so I chant with Homer J.: "Sports, sports, sports, sports. Sports, sports, sports, sports." There's nothing equivocal in that soundbyte.