Two of my novels, Secretarial Wars and Let’s Play Ball, deal in a peripheral way with fictional presidents of the United States who are basically clowns. That is, they are overgrown cowboys who starts wars on an impulse and quickly gets in over their heads. They tend toward empty religiosity and have hidden personal lives that fail to match their “family values” rhetoric. Being wannabe athletes as well as chicken hawks, they amuse themselves by interfering in the management of local sports teams and hobnobbing with the owners, to the distress of many D. C. fans. Their impeachable offenses in the political arena are well covered up, until some false friend or lover betrays them.  

Without naming any names, I dare say these traits would look familiar to any casual observer of American presidential politics. However, the current incumbent might not be such a good model for stories in which rash acts drive the action. He thinks before he acts, even when preparing to taking down the most notorious terrorist in history. Despite his own turbulent childhood, his family life appears stable. I guess a cerebral president isn’t nearly as exciting in fiction as a jackass.

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Baseball As Melodrama

May 1, 2011

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning. My team has just scored two runs after being shut out the entire game by a pitcher who was deified with last year’s Cy Young award. He represents a hated rival team whose fans routinely take over our stadium and drown us out, especially when busloads of them come down the interstate and get as drunk as skunks during the game. But now they’re worried. We have the tying and winning runs on base with just one out. Coming to the plate is a renowned slugger who was acquired this off-season just to pinch-hit and hit home runs in situations like this. On deck, just in case he doesn’t do the job, is an aging but still respected catcher destined for the Hall of Fame someday.

So what do our heroes do? Both strike out with the bats on their shoulders. Which causes me to spend the rest of that evening and a good part of the next day demanding over and over to like-minded fans, and anybody else who will listen, What were they thinking?

Fortunately, there are other games on the horizon, offering instant redemption. There comes a day, very soon, when an expensive free-agent acquisition from that very same evil team to the north scores the winning run not by bashing the ball, but by using his fundamental baseball instincts in an inspiring dash around the bases, taking advantage of the opposing team’s mental lapses. And the elation of that victory makes me totally forget the devastation of that other game. So in the space of a few days, I progress from “Oh, the humanity!” to “Ain’t the beer cold!” And the best part is, I’ve over-emoted about something that matters not at all in the scheme of things. Overreaction is the definition of a sports fan.