Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fans Who Hate Obama More Than They Love America

As a college athlete, a former basketball and football referee, and a passionate sports fan I have both received and delivered withering verbal abuse over the years. Fans loudly and routinely question the judgment, sanity, integrity and wisdom of the officials. But they only get upset when the call goes against their team.

No one ever boos the refs for making a bad call that goes in their team's favor. And I've never seen a team argue against or refuse to accept an unfair decision that helped them win the game.

What brought all this to mind was the news that Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the subsequent reaction from many Americans who criticized the selection and urged the President to turn down the award because he didn't deserve it.

First let's focus on the decision to honor Obama. Did the five Norwegian referees on the Nobel committee blow it? I don't think so. Upon review the ruling on the field stands as called. Despite the boos from the stands, Obama deserves the award right now. The officials had a better angle and got it right.

In announcing the award, the Nobel Committee cited Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy" and providing the leadership required for the "USA to play a more constructive role" by creating "a new direction in international politics."

The announcement concludes that:

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

But Obama has already done much more to make the world a safer place than just set a new tone. There are many tangible signs of progress in reversing the broad range of domestic and international disasters that were created or exacerbated by George W. Bush.

First and foremost, since Obama's election, Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations who want to destroy us have had a real problem finding new recruits. Former President Bush had become a poster boy for terrorist recruiting as America's standing as a moral force in the world came to be defined by the horrific pictures from Abu Ghraib and torture stories from Gitmo.

Obama's outreach to the Arab and Muslim world have made it almost impossible for our country's enemies to portray us as "the Great White Satan" and find healthy young people willing to blow themselves up to kill us. The rest of the world seems to know better than to believe the Right wing lies about how Obama has weakened and apologized for America. Admitting past mistakes is not weak and definitely not an apology.

In addition, President Obama has made it clear that he will be personally engaged and take a balanced approach as he works for a sustainable peace in the Middle East. Although many of my fellow Jews claim he is a secret Muslim who has abandoned Israel, the fact is that since Obama was elected, Hamas has had a very hard time maintaining the support of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas leaders have been pushing hard to have next January's elections postponed since they fear a big defeat at the polls if the voting takes place as scheduled.

Domestically, Obama has worked tirelessly to confront a broad range of crises in our country. He inherited an American-made economic crisis that was threatening to send the entire world into a massive depression. The financial markets were in a death spiral that many believed would take us all permanently down the drain.

During his 9 months in office, the U.S. and world stock markets have gone higher for eight months in a row for the first time in decades. Investors who didn't panic at the bottom have made up losses that most believed would never be overcome. Our employment picture, as predicted, is taking longer to come back but three times as many Americans say they are optimistic about the future as felt that way nine months ago.

He has attacked our health care crisis head on but has been slowed by the Republican leaders in Congress who have promised to make sure nothing gets passed and by members of both parties who are so financially tied to health care interests that they have made progress difficult. Things have moved forward very slowly but it took us decades to get into this mess. It will take more than 9 months to get out of it.

So the refs in Norway made the right call--at the very least it was a defensible call. And it helped the U.S.--the home team of every patriotic American. We are all better off if our President and the Commander in Chief of our armed forces is recognized for promoting peace and making the world a better place.

So why are so many of the home fans booing?

Some honestly believe the refs made a bad call. Fair enough. They say Obama hasn't done enough yet to deserve this honor. I disagree, but some of their arguments are reasonable. But so what? As I said before, when have you ever seen the home fans boo the refs and get up in arms when a questionable call is made that favors the home team?

But the people who seem most upset--often apoplectic--over Obama being honored are the same folks who were cheering wildly just a week earlier when it was announced that Chicago was not getting the 2016 Olympic Games.

There is only one explanation that makes any sense at all. These folks just don't want the home team to win or even play well as long as Obama is president and will get some of the credit.

They hate Obama more than they love America.

This may seem like idiocy to an intellectual but sports fans understand it perfectly. I know dozens of smart rational people here in Tucson who are big University of Arizona fans and who hate Arizona State. They hate ASU so much and so viscerally that they always root for the Sun Devils to lose--even in cases where it would be to Arizona's advantage in the rankings if ASU won. None of them can give you a credible reason for their hatred. They just can't help themselves.

It is this type of baseless hatred that confronts Obama here at home. The haters have their own booster club (Fox News) and cheerleaders (Right Wing radio hosts and bloggers). Since they have no facts to back their feelings, they simply make stuff up and broadcast and email it back and forth to each other, call it news, and claim to be telling the truth.

Paul Krugman wrote last week (before the Nobel Prize announcement):

"If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it — whether or not it’s good for America."

I may not know much about politics, but I know what it means to be a fan. No true fan of Team America would ever scream at the refs for making a call that helped our team win. In that regard, Rush Limbaugh may have said it best:

"Our president is a worldwide joke. Folks, do you realize something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award. Now that's hilarious, that I'm on the same side of something with the Taliban, and that we all are on the same side as the Taliban."

As usual, Limbaugh did not say more than he meant. He might have said more than he meant to say.

There are those on the Left who hated Bush. But mostly there were people like me who simply thought he was a horrible president. The millions of opponents of the Iraq war would have never cheered an American defeat or an enemy victory. We loved America far more than we disliked Bush.

Obamahate is very different. It is better organized and is embraced by thousands of influential media and Republican leaders. And its biggest casualties have been the truth, true patriotism, and civil discourse in our country.

Thankfully, the refs who were calling the Nobel Prize game live in Norway where millions of their citizens don't watch and listen to hatespeech against the president 24-7. I remember when America was like that.

The selection of Obama was controversial--maybe even a call that deserved to be reviewed.

But the reaction of millions of American fans--most of whom would describe themselves as patriots--was both telling and shameful.