I’m a fan of two American pastimes: sports and politics. Both involve outsize personalities and cut throat competition. Each features dramatic storylines about second chances, messy falls from grace and last minute come from behind victories. One, professional sports, seems important but is really only entertainment. The other, politics, is often packaged as entertainment yet really needs to just be more important. And each endeavor offers arcane facts and odd statistics for the diehard fan. So here are some final numbers to wrap up last week’s Presidential election….
11:12 pm, Eastern Standard Time, election night: the first major network calls the election for President Obama. 607 days: the length of the campaign, beginning March 11, 2011 when former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty declares as the first Presidential candidate. $2,000,000,000: amount spent by the campaigns and their supporters making 2012 the most expensive election in United States history. 72 percent: Governor Mitt Romney’s share of Utah’s votes, making the Beehive state the reddest state. 71 percent: Obama’s take in Hawaii, as the Aloha State went true blue. Infinity: if you live in a swing state, that’s the number of campaign ads on TV you had to endure for the better part of a year.
But the stat I’m most intrigued by is 12:55 am, a week ago last Wednesday morning right here in Massachusetts. That’s when our former Governor got up to deliver what must have been the hardest speech of his life. I cannot imagine what it is like to work so hard for so long to achieve something so dearly desired and then to fall short. To get so close with 48.1 percent of the popular vote. It may have been an Electoral College “landslide” but last week’s election was the fourth closest Presidential race in 112 years.
I wonder what that long solitary walk on to the stage at the Boston Convention Center was like for Governor Romney. He spoke for just three minutes, 628 words in total. Then with a final wave he left the stage, exiting into the shadows of American history.
But that’s how it is in American politics, American sports and this American life. We love our winners, the victors, the ones who claim the gold. And often far too quickly, we dismiss or diss or just forget the losers. The runners up. The also rans.
Yet the truth is that if we compete and participate with gusto and passion on the field of play or field of life, like President Obama and Governor Romney, we’ll probably end up losing more often than we win, stumbling more often than we soar. Certainly gives me sympathy for how the Governor must have felt on that chilly November night.
Remember how many interviews and resumes it took before you got that good job? How many doors did you knock upon, phone calls did you make all for just one sale? We may be married or in a great relationship but how many first dates turned out to be first duds? We can’t all get straight “A’s”, no matter how hard we try. Most humans actually end up in the middle of the grading curve. That’s life.
That’s why I like the outlook Romney expressed the afternoon of the election when asked about his state of mind and heart now that it was almost over. "I feel like we put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end and I think that’s why we’ll be successful." He was wrong in his prediction but right in his attitude.
To play so hard and try so hard that regardless of the final score or tally we can at least take heart in knowing that we truly left it all on the field. No effort spared. No last minute push neglected. No hesitation in the final stretch for the goal line. The game is over and we are fully spent. No one likes to lose. But even worse perhaps is the notion we that did not give it our all.
President Theodore Roosevelt, who lost very badly in his last run for public office, once said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”
So congratulations to President Obama and to Governor Mitt Romney. One lost. One won. But they both left it all on the field.