Potentially the Greatest Baseball Blunder Since Buckner in '86
There is no example in American history of a political showcase preempting the World Series, just as there is no example of a sporting event preempting an election. They are once-in-a-lifetime events, and we previously, collectively, considered them to be greater than an individual. Now I wonder if we should just insert 'Obama' between baseball and apple pie.
The very fact that the World Series schedule was already established at the time Team Obama made their media buys shows every indication that they are as out of touch as critics contend, but also that they are showing - again - their predictable ability to take their eye off the ball.
A virtual cone of silence seems to have descended today within the advertising and entertainment trade press on the subject of Obama's infomercial that will air across several networks and is said to have cost the campaign between $3 and $5 million. Still, I was able to find commentary from PRWeek's Ted McKenna, offering some take on the obvious downside of Obama's media blitz.
Enjoying a major cash advantage over the John McCain campaign, the Obama campaign has been able to place advertising in all sorts of unexpected places of late, including video games. Some political commentators wonder whether there might be a downside for the campaign in potentially irritating voters by the practically ubiquitous Obama advertising.
McKenna references Jeanne Cummings' 'Obama infomercial: Smart politics or risky overkill?' piece (Politico.com) in which she attempts to make the point that this strategy of a media blitz helps Obama to avoid "the filter of the media". In fact, it is just as likely that the opposite will occur and that the media will be talking about this for the next few days in the analysis and commentary portion of the story's new cycle.
Neglecting the realities of the news cycle will not be the greatest effect caused by this larger-than-life blunder. It will be the backlash of a politicians greatest bugaboo - the loyal sports fan.
I offer the following encapsulated geography lesson for the Democrat nominee's edification. If anyone has his - or David Axelrod's - email, feel free to forward.
For many baseball fans (the last two World Series games received an a little more than 15 million viewers each) the baseball championship is an destination, not an event - a place to which they have been traveling for months, even years. Nowhere is that more true than in Philadelphia, a city whose baseball franchise hasn't appeared in a World Series in fifteen years and hasn't been victorious in one since 1980.
The Philadelphia Phillies hail from... Philadelphia, a large metropolis in the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a state in which Senator McCain has been gaining ground in the last week, a state that swung hard for Hillary Clinton and came in weak for Senator Obama in the primaries.
In the opposite dugout are the Tampa Bay Rays, whose fans are clinging on to hope that their team can fend off elimination and possibly play on to win their first championship. Another point of geographic fact: Tampa Bay is in Florida, a state in which the McCain campaign has been gaining ground in the last week, a state that swung hard for Clinton and came in weak for Obama in the primaries, even though the Democrat Florida primary didn't officially count.
I asked myself a question: If my Seattle Mariners were in the World Series, set to play the clinching game and possibly bring the championship to Jet City, and General Motors showered the broadcasting network with enough cash to bump the baseball game for the airing of a half-hour advertisement for the new Yukon hybrid, I would be furious and it would negatively affect my feelings about GM.
When your name is Lenny Bruce you can get away with showing conceit for your audience, not if your name is Barack Obama. In battleground states, walking on eggshells is standard operating procedure when you're the front-runner and inconveniencing sports fans just so you can broadcast another political ad that comes following a tsunami of political ads may just be enough of an irritation to sway precious votes.
Or not. I could be wrong. But if you were Barack Obama, would you feel like you need to take that chance?
Senator Obama's has seriously overestimated the public's appetite for political theater, and similar misjudgments have often placed him in hot water during the campaign. This time, the look for tiny bubbles forming in the pot as the Democrat nominee places himself ahead of the national pastime; and this gives Obama's opponents a chance to drive the temperature to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, John McCain will continue to smile and point to left field.