American Sports vs. American Politics


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.


What LeBron James Did to Change the NBA Forever

How Michael Phelps Changed the Course of Swimming

Carson Palmer – The NFL’s Comeback Kid


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.










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8 Responses to American Sports vs. American Politics

  1. Sydney Chesser says:

    I enjoyed reading your post and your unique comparison of American politics to sports. I very much agree with your statement that division within a political party, similar to division amoung a sports team is a huge factor that could hinder success in both cases. I also enjoyed your argument against Emerson’s view on society being an “unchangeable wave,” in which you pointed out the main theme of both Sander’s and Trump’s campaign, which focuses mainly on trying to challenge the current “political wave” in order to improve American society.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post! It was an interesting take on the assignment. You didn’t just summarize the book, you made it relatable for the average reader. It was a great analogy between two seemingly different topics. Your post flowed very well from the topic of sports to government. I think you made great points about Sanders and Trump trying to fight the “American political wave” when it comes to their campaigns, as well as the impact division can have on a party.

  3. reneucros says:

    I agree with you that American sports and American politics have much more in common than meets the eye. However, I did not quite understand your argument so maybe you can clarify it for me. It seems that you’re trying to say that society is a “wave” and that it takes a strong leader to go against the wave. But if what you are saying is that leaders like Trump and Sanders are going against the establishment and they have built supporters from doing so; wouldn’t that just be a shift in the wave rather than going against the wave? James, Phelps, and Palmer all had to shift the wave in their lesser teams to create a winning team but they never went against it, in my opinion.

  4. cckremer says:

    Your metaphor between politics and sports really interested me, and I think it’s a great one that mixes both of the major US interests in one go. However, I find it hard to approach this metaphor without defining what “victory” would be in politics. Victory in sports is direct: beat the opponents (or their records) and create a lasting record. How can we approach politics with the same train of thought? Is winning a seat the significant aspect of a political victory, or is it a lasting legacy? One could run on an individual, ground-breaking platform and win the election…but fail to enact suitable policy supported by that platform. Is that a political victory or does it just reveal the reality of our political system?

  5. kevyngessner1 says:

    I was very intrigued by your title, thus why I’m commenting now! I love the idea of comparing the two, I would have never thought to do so.

    However, I’m struggling to find how Emerson’s quote ties the two together. Emerson values the individual and being your best self. In both politics and sports, people unite together as a team (or a community, if you will). As a united front, they can make a shift in the world. Just like how Trump and Sanders made the ‘wave’ of anti-establishment, the Seattle Seahawks fans have created the “12th Man”, making it the most difficult stadium to play in for the opponent. People have united behind both Trump and the Seahawks and are trying to make a difference in their communities. This idea of unifying a community goes against one of Emerson’s most significant themes of not looking to others. In fact, the people that rally behind politics and sports look to each other and use one another to become a stronger force.

  6. cvazquez131 says:

    Nice post, I enjoyed your comments about individualism and athletes. In the sports world it has been seen time and time again what happens when an athlete put individual pride over his team. In regards the wave quote, would Bernie Sanders Campaign not prove Emerson right? As hard as Bernie Sanders tried, he could not change the water the makes the wave. He had no choice but to cede the nomination to establishment Hillary Clinton, the Democratic establishment was never going to give him the nod. It still amazes that Donald Trump was able to crush the Republican establishment picks Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio as easily as he did. This November we will see if Trumps individualism will be able to break the wave of society. Whether or not that is a good thing, we will have to wait and see.

  7. Geoffrey Vassallucci says:

    Honestly, I really enjoyed reading your post. I just arrived one month ago in the United States and I directly understood how much sports are important in this country, as well as politics. So I think it’s very useful to try to find some similarities between both. I will focus my reflection on team sports, because I think there are more similatrities between team sports and politics. I agree with you on several points : sports and politics need both a leader, a real leader who will bring his team as its best level, in order to win (a fight, a game, a campaign), communication is very important in the team too. However, I really want to qualify the similarities existing between both. Indeed, I don’t think politics and sports are totally similar. For me, the team spirit notion could qualify theory. Contrary to politics, sport lives through the team spirit, a sportive leader in a team which does not participate in this team spirit can never become a leader, the sportive leader needs the others to be fulfilled in his career. However, according to me, a political leader can sometimes reach his purposes without any help.

    Very very interesting post !

  8. This was a very interesting post to read. As an athlete myself, I enjoyed the comparison. Well done!

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