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Super Bowl Lessons for the Right, Part II: Don’t Look to the Candidate, Look to Yourself

Posted By John R. Guardiano On February 16, 2010 @ 2:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

Without strong teammates to block for him, Peyton Manning would be sacked by his opponents. Conservative activists, likewise, have to block and hit for their candidates.

Click here for Part 1

In politics, as in football, everyone looks to the leader. In football, of course, the quarterback is the leader, whereas in politics, it’s the candidate. But in both politics and football, the quarterback and the candidate are less important than how well all of the team’s players work in tandem.

Yet, everyone’s been quick to fault quarterback Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl loss. The American Spectator’s Joseph Lawler, for instance, has denounced the

“perennially overrated Peyton Manning [for] throwing a deliciously inexcusable pick six.”

The Spectator’s W. James Antle III, is less partisan and more charitable toward Manning, but still faults the Colts’ QB for committing “the single most costly error, with an interception that was the dagger” for his team.

In fact, what the interception shows is that, in the game of football, errors and mistakes are seldom made by only one player. To the contrary: teams often lose because they aren’t working in tandem, and because multiple players aren’t carrying their load.

In Part I of this series, I explained how Manning’s interception really wasn’t his fault. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne made two fatal errors that caused the interception.

But don’t obsess about that one play, because Wayne also dropped a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass, which would have given the Colts a chance at an onside kick, and thus also a chance at a subsequent game-tying touchdown drive.

Sure, Wayne would have had to make a quick and somewhat challenging catch; and you can fault Manning for throwing a less-than-perfect pass. Still, the ball was eminently catchable.

My point is not to pick on Wayne, because there is plenty of blame to go around the Colts’ locker room. Why just consider that, in the second quarter, another Colts’ receiver, Pierre Garcon, dropped a perfect third-down pass on which he, too, might have scored — or at least put the Colts in a scoring position.

Then, too, there was a missed 51-yard field goal by Colts’ kicker Matt Stover. Blame Stover, sure. But also realize that had the Colts not been greedy, they might have picked up at least some crucial third down yardage, which could have made Stover’s kick successful.

Instead, the Colts threw a more risky — and ultimately incomplete — third-down pass. However, if they had run a more conservative, high-percentage play, they likely would have picked up, say, six to eight yards and thus scored with the kick. (Stover’s field goal conversion rate is 86% for kicks inside 49 yards versus just 40% for kicks beyond 50 yards.)

In short, Manning’s teammates really let him down: by dropping multiple well-thrown passes; missing tackles on defense; and, in general, failing to come up with the type of big and inspired plays that Super Bowl championship games require.

The point is that football is a team sport; and so, too, is politics: You win and lose as a team. Conservatives can have the perfect presidential candidate in 2012; but if that candidate lacks a strong supporting cast, then that candidate may well fail in his quest for the presidency. Take it from Peyton Manning, who knows something about being great and yet falling short.

In Part III of this series, we’ll examine the disparate but equally important parts of the Center-Right political coalition — who and what they are and why, even if they don’t always like each other, they nonetheless need other, and now more than ever.

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John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter.


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