LeBron James. Michael Phelps. Carson Palmer.
Aside from super stardom, all of these athletes have one thing in common. Despite their extreme talent, at one point in their careers, they have been a part of a sub-par team, even after they found individual success. Often times athletes who find themselves as the “star” of the team rise to a leadership position and are responsible for motivating the rest of the group to work harder, faster, and stronger.
Each of the aforementioned athletes are proven leaders and motivators of change on their respective teams because they were willing to look directly into criticism and be willing to take on the responsibility to changing the course of the season.
Now, what on earth does the world of sports have to do with American politics?
Sports and politics have many similarities. Let’s take the NFL vs. “The American Political Field”. Each has their own set of teams (parties), coaches (leaders), players (those who hold office), and support staff. Each team or political party has a common goal that they wish to achieve and the most effective way of achieving that goal is by working together. Division on a team or within a political party is a surefire way to struggle and jeopardizes your chance of success. But as we have seen time and time again in the world of sports, a strong leader is a key to success.
In his essay, Self Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes an unchangeable wave, “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not. The same particle does no rise from the valley to ridge. Its unity is only phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation today, next year die, and their experiences with them.”
Leaders, whether they are NBA superstars or national political figures, are who are willing to ignore this belief of Emerson will be successful. People who are willing to be authentic are those who are also willing to challenge the “wave”. This idea is ever present in the current American political landscape.
The 2016 Presidential Election has unarguably been a rollercoaster ride but has lead many American voters to throw their support toward the “anti-establishment” candidates. Nominees like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have leveraged their campaigns on the construct that they are unique nominees who want to change the “wave” unlike their “establishment” counterparts. In Emerson’s eyes the wave of society is impossible to control but Sen. Sanders and Trump have taken the bull by the horns and are willing to say or do just about anything to change the course of the “American political wave”.
On the surface politics and sports may seem like they have nothing in common. But there is a resemblance to how each political or athletic game is played. In order to win, both require fearless leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes for the whole team to be successful.