It’s axiomatic that one of the most popular people in any NFL-franchise city is that team’s back-up quarterback.
The reason: it’s easy to look good when your mistake-free, non-playing status is juxtaposed to that of the starter — the high-profile guy who periodically screws up and is the fall guy for the team’s underachievement. Selective recall predisposes fans to edit out the back-up’s shortcomings — and the reason he was relegated to back-up status in the first place.
Take the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s Shaun King, a former starter who actually backs up a back-up. King’s relegation, lest we forget, was a function, in part, of “small-hands” fumbles; inability — at less-than-optimum QB height — to see over interior lineman; and reluctance to work hard enough in the off-season. Notably, the expectation bar for King was set so low that in the win-at-all-cost world of professional football, King was merely asked “not to lose.”
In the case of presidential politics, the economy, foreign affairs, scandals and even philosophical underpinnings may prove decisive and carry the day in a given race. Pundits and party activists can then deconstruct the results until the next cycle. In 2002, it was, arguably, about presidential coattails and Karl Rove. As well as a Democratic message that was inaudible and a party chairman, Terry McAuliffe, who wasn’t.
But ultimately it comes down to this. The “ins” never looked so good as when they became the “outs.”
Those who haven’t been in power start to look increasingly viable as memories of past failings fade. Incumbency inevitably yields screw-ups, a desire for new faces with fresh, new centrist ideas and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitudes. It’s the political counterpart of fickle fans calling for the head — or at least the job — of the incumbent signal caller who takes sacks, throws interceptions and fails to convert on third down.
The party carrying the sideline clipboard has one main responsibility. Be ready when the opportunity presents itself. In the mean time, continue to look good by default.
And never throw away those “It’s time for a change” bumper stickers.