What Conservatives Can Learn From Those Crazy Weekend Playoff Games

AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

Full disclosure here – I don’t watch much football. Occasionally during the season I will join my husband at our local watering hole to drink and watch him endure the agony of another Bears season. I’ll watch the Super Bowl so that I can at least be one of the cool kids the next day when people are talking about their favorite commercials and the halftime show.

So on Sunday, I only realized it was a playoff day when my husband came in with an armful of beer and meat. I went about my usual routine, popping in and out to catch the scores and chat. At one point I realized that the Los Angeles Rams were enjoying a huge lead against Tom Brady and whatever team he’s playing for. I thought, “Wow, I guess this game is already over.” I returned a while later to discover Tom Brady and the Tom Brady team had brought the game to a near dead heat. The Rams pulled it out, but I hadn’t expected that late battle.

I did not return to the television (and the man glued to it) until the last two minutes of the Chiefs and Bills (that’s who it was, right?). Boy, oh boy…what a two minutes it was. Having no stake in the game, and limited knowledge of the rules, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster. No way the Chiefs come back. No way the Bills come back. No way the Chiefs come back again and certainly no way they come back again! I was shouting at my tv like a true fan.

Ultimately the Chiefs pulled it out. I’ll leave the post-game post-mortem to better sports mind than my own, but I’m a political writer, and I couldn’t help but draw some parallels. I’m not very competitive, perhaps to a fault. That’s probably why I don’t dabble too much into sports (I’m a baseball fan, which is a pretty tame sport). When I saw Brady going down to the Rams I felt…worry. Not for anything important, just for him (this is such a chick thing, I know). I felt bad. I thought about how disappointed he would be, how far he’s come and what an amazing legacy he’s had. I thought about all the haters out there who would be happy the Tom Brady team lost just because they’re sick of Tom Brady at the Super Bowl.

But you know what Tom Brady was thinking about? Scoring. I was already focusing on the next hour, and he was in the moment. The game seemed over to me. To the man on the field, all that changed was the amount of effort he was going to have to expend to win.

The Chiefs game was similar, though certainly more gut-wrenching. I happened to be watching the screen at the exact moment the viewer could see Patrick Mahomes’ brain switch to “Gotta clean this up” mode. I saw it. That game had seconds left. The Bills were already celebrating a playoff berth. Mahomes wasn’t shedding tears and pouting. He and his coaches did the math, and headed out to the field with a plan to win, and even though the time and the odds were stacked against them, they played as if they still had time to win.

And then they won.

I hear from concerned conservatives all time who are complaining about the odds being stacked against them.They tell me they feel hopeless against the tide of progressivism. They feel muzzled, shouted down, overpowered. They feel time is running out. This election is the most important of our lifetime, and if not this one, the next one will be. Our opponents move too quickly, they are too far ahead, they are controlling the ball and the plays. We are outmatched and the clock is not on our side.

I understand the concern and I’d be lying if I said I never succumbed to defeatist thinking. Sometimes it really does feel overwhelming. But sometimes I think we are already walking off the field, conceding to the clock when what we should be doing is acting like we’re going to win and focusing on the next seconds, like Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, and not the next hours, like I was trying to do during the playoff games. Sports fans like to invoke the metaphor of the “warrior spirit” when talking about revered athletes. Conservatives need to invoke that same attitude. It is one that says, “When the chips are down, you don’t think about losing. You think about how you’re going to win and what needs to happen second-to-second to make that happen.”

It doesn’t always work out. Poor Tom Brady is now going home early to his horribly plain wife and his silly little family and their multiple mansions on multiple continents. I really feel for the guy. I’m sure you do too.

But Patrick Mahomes has survived to fight another day. Sometimes you barely lose, but sometimes your skin-of-the-teeth win is the biggest victory of all. See Virginia for more on that.

My point is that it’s time for conservatives to get their head in the game. Yes, things often look bleak, but the clock has not run out. There are still plays on the field to be made. Let’s start looking at the steps we need to take to win instead of constantly complaining about seconds ticking down to our losses.

In politics, like football, stamina is useless without a winning mindset.