Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Are You Rooting For?

You would think that, as a native New Yorker who doesn't participate in online pools, I would have little or no vested interest in who wins tonight's NCAA basketball championship game. Yet I still feel conflicted. As one who roots for President Obama to succeed, should I support his ESPN pick of the University of North Carolina? Or should my empathy for those affected by the devastating unemployment situation in Michigan, make me choose Michigan State?

Whoever wins tonight, our domestic and foreign crises will still be there tomorrow. But sports gives us a welcome respite from those looming issues, because at the end of the game, there is a clear winner. The losing team can't demand a recount, and no championship has ever been decided by the Supreme Court.

Such easy resolutions don't often occur in politics and diplomacy. When was the last time two countries reached a peace agreement after one meeting? Some countries like North Korea and Iran may play "hard to get", but with persistent, direct diplomacy, real progress towards peaceful coexistence can be made.

It might be more dramatic to heave a half court shot at the buzzer, but a slow, deliberate march up the court, with smart passing while waiting for the best shot, has a higher chance of success. That's the strategy our basketball loving President likes to follow. And even though I'm not one to wager on sports, or even make predictions for no money online, I'm betting on this President not only to win, but to play the game with skill, intelligence, class and respect.

And while we're at it, why not have online pools for things other than NCAA sports? How about predicting which global conflicts will end first? Wouldn't it be great if the Sports Book in Vegas covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I'd love to watch a bunch of bettors yelling, "Go Peace! C'mon you can do it! Negotiate! Go Peace!"

Now that's an online pool I'd be happy to be in.