Trash-Talking In Sports and Politics

As the world knows, Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman made a big play to clinch the NFC championship for Seattle, and almost immediately afterward was interviewed on television by Erin Andrews. Sherman went on an epic (albeit brief) rant in which he ripped San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree and proclaimed himself “the best corner in the game.”

Many have claimed to be appalled by Sherman’s lack of sportsmanship, but I think he merely learned the hard way why veteran players in all sports generally confine themselves to cliches in post-game interviews: it saves a lot of trouble. When a player is interviewed immediately after an emotional finish to a hard-fought game, and the player says what he is really thinking, the results are likely to be unfortunate. One thinks of the different, but analogous, case of the pitcher who struck out an opposing batter to end the game, and when asked by a reporter about the strikeout pitch, blurted out excitedly, “It was a fastball, cock-high.”

There is such a thing as talking trash in politics, too. Witness Governor Andrew Cuomo, who in a radio interview on Friday appeared to be trying to run conservatives out of the State of New York:

You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans. …

You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life…

Around half the country is pro-life, and the tide of public opinion is shifting in that direction. Cuomo can disagree with the pro-life position if he wants to, but to call it “extreme” is ridiculous.

…pro-assault-weapon…

It would be entertaining to get Cuomo to try to tell us what an “assault weapon” is.

…anti-gay?

Around half the population is anti-gay marriage–hardly an “extreme” position–but I don’t know any conservatives who are “anti-gay.”

Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

Cuomo’s rant, like Sherman’s, has been greeted with howls of outrage, some of it, perhaps, of the faux variety. It is a commonplace on the Left to denounce all conservatives as “extremists,” even where the conservative position on the issue in question is more widely held than the liberal’s own view. But the blowback against Cuomo’s radio rant was such that his office felt obliged to respond with an “open letter” to the New York Post, claiming that Cuomo’s comments had been misrepresented:

The New York Post distorted Governor Cuomo’s words yesterday, saying that the Governor said “conservatives should leave New York.” The Governor did not say that, nor does he believe that.

If you read the transcript (below), it is clear that the Governor was making the observation that an extreme right candidate cannot win statewide because this is a politically moderate state (either moderate Republican or moderate Democratic).

In the same response, the Governor went on to say “it is fine” to be anti-gun control, and anti-choice” – as he respects both positions.

Cuomo did, in fact, say:

Well if you are right to life, that is your opinion and that’s your religious belief, that is fine but that is not the opinion of this state, which 70% are pro-choice in this state. “Well we are anti-gun control”, that is fine.

70% of this state wants intelligent gun control. “We don’t agree with gay marriage, we are anti-gay”, that is fine but 70% of this state about, is now pro-gay marriage so figure out who you are and figure out if you are of a extreme conservative philosophy and if you can survive in this state. And the answer is no.

Cuomo did not say that he “respects” any of these “extreme conservative” positions; you can judge for yourself whether that is the import of his comments. If you listen to the audio of his radio interview, it is hard to avoid the feeling that he would like to see New York cleansed of its conservative citizens:

Some have already taken Cuomo at his word. Sean Hannity, for one, says he is going to pack up his show and move it to another state–one without an income tax.

Triumphalism in politics, as in sports, is sometimes hard to avoid, but it is almost always a mistake. The worm inevitably turns; no one’s triumph lasts forever. Cuomo, like Richard Sherman, would have been better served to tone it down and show a little consideration for his opponents. Moreover, of the two, Cuomo is more blameworthy: we expect cornerbacks to be better than politicians at knocking down passes, and politicians to be better at answering questions from reporters. Not to mention the fact that Sherman, unlike Cuomo, spoke in the heat of the moment after an emotional victory.

Cuomo has been mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential contender, but that won’t happen unless he learns a little humility. (His voice in the radio interview is so pretentious that it is almost unlistenable.) Maybe it would help if Cuomo put on a helmet and pads and went one on one with Michael Crabtree for a while.

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