New Orleans Saints and Obama

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(NNPA)—Time has passed since the Super Bowl and the glorious victory of the New Orleans Saints, but I find that I keep coming back to that game, and not for the reasons that you might think. The Indianapolis Colts were supposed to win that game. They are an outstanding team with an outstanding quarterback and head coach. Everyone knew that it would be uphill for the Saints.

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But the Saints won. And in many respects they won through an interesting combination of incredible team work, leadership and audacity. Although Indianapolis took the lead in the first quarter, it was apparent by the end of the second quarter that something was changing. And then it happened. An on-side kick which took everyone—including but not limited to the Colts—by complete surprise. It is one thing to use such a kick in the fourth quarter, but in the third? After half-time?

It was clear that the energy that the Saints started showing in the second quarter had morphed into something else, and the entire initiative shifted. As they say, it was a game changer.

I am not as much of a football fan as I am a baseball fan, but this Super Bowl was a game to see. Not only was it what New Orleans needed as a city, but it was a fascinating example of an organization flipping the script against the odds.

I have, as a result of the game, found myself thinking about President Obama. While it is true that he came into office with massive support, the expectations of him were often based on a combination of both magical thinking and wishful thinking in that there was insufficient consideration of both his actual politics and also what he is up against in Washington. In that sense, his drop-off in support should not be surprising since there were no miracles during the first year.

That said, the Obama administration has demonstrated little of the audacity of the Obama campaign. After all, who expected Obama to get the nomination, let alone win the presidency? How could Obama have won had it not been for audacity, inspiration and organization?

An anonymous former campaign activist for Obama was quoted recently as saying something to the effect that the Obama administration has not wished to govern using the brilliant grass roots approach that was followed in the campaign. To that I can only say “Amen!” There has been little audacity. I would not even describe the administration as tentative so much as I would describe them as trapped in an unrealistic sense of how to bring about change. President Obama wants change, at least a certain sort of change, but he and his administration want change that comes through quiet diplomacy and the building of a consensus on the least common denominator. Additionally, and this is critical, the Obama administration appears to be deeply worried about what will result if the mass of Obama supporters are encouraged to mobilize and take to the streets against the irrationalist political right. Thus, while the political right takes to the streets, mobilizes and shifts the debate, the Obama administration seems to believe that this is a tempest in a teapot, no pun intended.

This brings us back to the Super Bowl. If the Saints had played the game the way that the Colts and respected sports commentators had both expected, they would have lost. The team’s leadership was prepared to take risks at the right time knowing full well that Super Bowl XLIV (year 2010) is only played once. There is no best out of seven and no rematches. There are, however, moments when one must throw the dice…or pull off an audacious onside kick.

President Obama: we’re waiting for the on-side kick.

(Bill Fletcher Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of “Solidarity Divided.”)

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