In This Campaign, Politics Is Not Baseball

Visions of baseball danced in our heads as we watched Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary square off with challenger Janet Owens the night the '98 season closed to resounding cheers. McGwire v. Sosa; 70-66. Now that was a debate worth watching.

Certainly, we didn't go to the Annapolis Jaycee's debate expecting to be pulled out of our seats by inertia-defying feats. As we expected, we sat tight as Owens read and Gary rumbled. We listened dutifully, attentive for a spark of brilliance, hoping for a pitch we could connect with. We didn't expect any homeruns, and neither Owens nor Gary hit any.

Clearly, politics is not baseball.

Politics may be a game, but it's sure no spectator sport.

Which is why, friends and readers, we're finding it tough to give you what-fer for caring a darn sight more about baseball than you do about politics. We'd like to be asking where you were the night of September 28, when a crowd of about 100 filled Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts about as fully as a cocktail sausage fills a ballpark hot dog bun.

Maybe, while the Jaycees were hoping a warm body for every lawn sign reading Owens or Gary, you were at home watching the action in Wrigley Field on television.

Shame on you we meant to say, but we changed our minds.

Instead, we offer a lesson or two there for politicians, starting with John Gary and Janet Owens.

Lesson 1: Look at us when you talk. We're the other half of your success - or of your failure. Like McGwire and Sosa - and like the millions of fans rooting for them - we want to connect.

Lesson 2: Talk to us.

Once you see us - yes, we're real - eagerly waiting on your words, we're sure you'll realize that we're waiting to learn what you're going to do for us. How, Ms. Owens, will your goal of raising Anne Arundel schools from 11th in the state to first, raise the quality of our lives? How, Mr. Gary, will your demand for accountability from the school board make a difference in our lives? Abstractions about quality, accountability or economic development just don't cut it. To win our allegiance - and our vote - you've got to talk to us where we live.

Which, in case neither of you noticed, is Chesapeake Country. Which leads us to-

Lesson 3: Address our issues.

Chesapeake Bay is the source of all that's good in our lives. We know that's the bottom line, but you seem to have forgotten it.

Lesson 4: Teach us to care about your issues.

Ms. Owens, this one's especially for you. In good times like these, most incumbents are sitting in the catbird seat. When you say we should toss John Gary out, the burden of proof is on you. The honeymoon of your unexpected primary win is over. It's time you took up the burden of proof.

Your other issues - civility, pension reform and property tax reductions for seniors - might be worth caring about, but you haven't raised our interest. The 20,000 Democrats who voted for you are waiting.

Of course, maybe all you politicians are looking at it another way. One or the other of you is sure to win. Maybe if you get our votes, winning our hearts isn't on your agenda.

Which explains why Mark and Sammy win our love, while you get our grudging duty.

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Volume VI Number 39
October 1-7, 1998
New Bay Times

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