I love baseball! I am sad when I hear people say that it’s boring. To be clear, baseball is not boring! When you ask someone why they think baseball is boring, they typically say, “Nothing ever happens, you can watch for like half of an hour before there is a hit or a run or anything.” The problem is, you’re not paying attention to the most exciting part of baseball: the pitching! Literally, pitching is 70% or more of the game. No wonder you are bored! If you are only waiting for hitting or fielding, you are missing most of the game! Don’t get me wrong, I love hitting and fielding, but the real drama and excitement in the game, in my opinion, is the pitching. How long can the starter last? What is the bullpen like? When do we bring in the closer? (Not to mention the drama that happens each time a new batter comes to the plate!) When will the pitcher throw a fastball? When will he throw a curveball? How about a change-up? There’s a full count with two outs and a runner on second base! What will he throw to ensure a strike out and end the inning? To not be excited about the pitching is to not understand baseball!
So it is with politics. Every four years, about September, people ask me, “Darrin, I’m trying to be informed about the election, where should I go for good information about the candidates and the issues?” And I’m always like, “What?” Politics, like baseball, is all about the long game. You cannot hope to tune in at the last minute and understand what’s going on. Campaigns and legislative votes are like fielding and hitting, they are exciting, but only make up a small portion of the game. Policies, ideologies, issues and the legislative process are like the pitching. They are complex, dynamic, strategic and very exciting! However, it is not something that can be appreciated in a 90 day run up to an election, or a week before a key legislative vote. To be well-informed about politics is a daily endeavor. It requires carefully following current events and spending time learning about the complexities of the issues. Now before you say “Darrin, I can’t participate in the news every day, it’s so depressing.” Let me help you out a little bit. The local news is depressing. You know the stories like “Man eats cat after burning his grandma’s house down.” That kind of local news coverage is best summed up as “if it bleeds it leads.” Also, stay away from cable and network news. They spend way more time focusing on the politics than the policies. Cable news and network news are more focused on “will it or won’t it pass” or “who is up and who is down” than on what was in the bill or what a candidate thinks or believes.
In-depth analysis of policies is going to come from good old print media sources and “boring” programming like NPR and the PBS NewsHour. These outlets take the time to develop the stories and give in-depth perspective and analysis. They do not have to take a break every three minutes to sell you new kidney medicines and home security systems. If your goal is to be truly informed, you need to read from a variety of sources. You don’t want to be like the drunk fan at a baseball game who wears $200 in fan gear but can’t tell you the names of three players. You know, the ones who yell super-sophisticated instructions like “hit the ball,” or “run!” Sure, they root for the home team, but the thrill of the game is lost on them. If you only seek media that confirms your political bias, you’re not really informed, you’re just motivated.
(Here is a good graphic of news outlets and where they fit on the political spectrum)
Baseball is not boring, it’s a non-stop drama fest filled with surprises and amazing skill. Likewise, politics is more than campaign attack ads and nonstop cable news talking heads. It’s the very heart of our vibrant, messy wonderful democracy! Being informed is going to take some effort, but trust me, it’s worth it!