Narrative

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics, Rambling on

Barack Obama Playing BasketballIt never ceases to amaze me how a single event, action, or activity can be shaped to produce a narrative intended to spread a viewpoint or bias. Then again, we are humans, who have long had the capability to tap into anything and create a story. Tonight I’ve been thinking of sports. It’s fascinating how different athletic and sporting activities have been perceived and interpreted by a group of people, depending on their bias.

Take golf: When the subject of a game of golf is Barack Obama, the narrative is often of a weak, ineffectual, and distant man, seemingly unbothered by the current events, and perhaps demonstrating a dereliction of duty to his office. On the other hand, golf has long been the game of choice of the rich and powerful. We’ve seen it in a thousand movies: the golf course is where lucrative business deals are and tycoons show their power. I don’t doubt reality is much different. When you end up on a golf course a businessman, you have “made it.” But for politicians – at least in Obama’s case – the narrative is complete opposite. It’s not one that’s entirely undeserved, but it is interesting.

Then there’s bicycling: When the subject is Barack Obama, he’s a sissy street bicycler, wearing helmets and taking it slow on the sidewalks (though in most pics he seems to be with his children). Bicycling isn’t always done by the “sissies,” of course. George W. Bush is a well known athletic bicycler, often taking to the dirt on off-road bikes. Of course, the narrative here is between the city biker, who doesn’t have a competitive, aggressive bone in his body, and the athletic competitor, who goes off road to compete.

Finally, there’s basketball: Oh, wait, can’t make a bad narrative about this one (though I’m sure it’s been tried), because basketball is actually almost always associated with competition. This sport Obama does in spades, and there are plenty of photos of him dribbling a ball down the court and taking shots. I won’t bother trying to find a way to sissify basketball, because you really can’t. Maybe playing a teaching game like HORSE that doesn’t have much competition?

This is why you’ll always see negative references and photo collages of Obama golfing or riding city bikes, but never of him playing basketball. When you creative a narrative of a weak and ineffectual leader, you can’t include an American past time like basketball and have people take you seriously.

This post isn’t meant to provide support to Obama. It’s just a result of some random thinking I had after seeing one of these negative portrayals of him tonight.

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