It’s the first Saturday morning of the new year and a whole lot of Very Important People are waking up as Underdogs. By this time next week, we’ll know whether any of them have managed to transform themselves into Alpha Stars, or if they have faded to has-been afterlife.
Joe Gibbs, coach of the Washington Redskins, may be our most appealing Underdog today. There’s a special magnetism here, because while many people in this region care deeply about the fate of the Redskins, we know that the thrill of victory/agony of defeat emotions are ephemeral. We don’t have to live with the results for four or eight more years. ‘Skins v. Cowboys (forget the Seahawks, we’ll be seeing Dallas next week) may be a metaphor for battle, but there’s a great sense of security in knowing that the winner will not have the power to start a war.
Not so with the winner of the election game. Whoever emerges in November from that pileup will have his (or her) finger on the hot buttons of the world.
Hillary Clinton must surely be feeling like a great big old Underdog this morning in spite of the brave face she put on for New Hampshire. Barack Obama has the Big Mo, and John Edwards is lurking like a linebacker ready to block either of them on their runs to the goal line. The contest is only in the first quarter, but it could be over before halftime. The stakes are huge. The primary process is absurd, giving small, unrepresentative states so much influence in determining the national candidates.
Mitt Romney and John McCain are today’s Republican Underdogs, but chances are that the New Hampshire primary will change the balance between Mitt and Mike Huckabee. The real question is whether Rudy the Alpha (Giuliani) will even register in the polls.
After reading Sally Jenkins’ column about Joe Gibbs in the Washington Post this morning, I think that Rudy and Mitt and Mike and Barack and John and Hillary could learn a whole lot from studying the style, grit and grace of Gibbs. Whatever happens in Seattle tonight, Gibbs has exemplified the qualities we associate with great leadership: the humility to admit mistakes, the ability to learn from those mistakes, the capacity to change management style when circumstances change, the deeply moral sense of accountability for the welfare of the whole team, the resilience to motivate the team to even higher performance levels after great sorrow, and the smarts to put together the winning strategy. This coach is a leader who has not left his team wallowing in the mud of a failed effort.
Hmm. Joe Gibbs. The election season will still be wide open long after the football season is over.
Nah. He’ll be busy with NASCAR.