Why we love sports (and hate politics) ( The Michigan View 1.6.11)

Posted by hpayne on January 7, 2011

Rich Rodriguez was hired to produce a winning football program at one of America’s football powers, the University of Michigan. He failed. In three years, he compiled a mediocre 15W – 22L program. He went winless against U-M’s arch rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State. On Saturday, his team was humiliated on national television in the Gator Bowl, 52-14.

On Wednesday he was fired.

Results matter in football. It’s why we love sports. And it’s why we hate politics.

Contrast the fate of Rodriquez with that of another prominent state leader, Gov. Jennifer Granholm. With storm clouds gathering but unemployment at 6.7 percent after her re-election in 2006, Michigan’s first female governor (Rodriquez was Michigan’s first coach of Hispanic descent – but so what?) promised to address looming structural problems:. “In five years, you’ll be blown away,” she said. Four years later unemployment is12.8 percent, she has presided over two budget shutdowns, and she leaves the state with $1.5 billion budget hole.

Yet she is rewarded with coverage touting her record as a visionary pol whose only sin was having the bad luck to be in office at a time of difficult circumstances.

It’s enough to make you change the channel and look for a football game.

Sports reporters buried Rodriquez in a rising flood of vitriol, all but carrying him out the door. “Rich Rodriguez never truly fit with Michigan. His personality didn’t fit. His style of play didn’t fit,” harrumphed Adam Rittenburg at ESPN.com. “Rodriguez miscalculated badly, and so did Michigan. It’s a colossal failure and a brutally painful lesson for a once-hot coach and a once-unshakeable program: Be careful what you wish for,” groused The Detroit News’ Bob Wojnowski. “In ugly, out ugly.”

“Why wouldn’t Rich Rodriguez be fired? In three years, he didn’t win a single important game,” penned Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press.

Just the facts, ma’am. The guy didn’t get the job done.

Contrast this common sense sports coverage with a whole backfield full of writers, cheerleaders and excuse-makers willing to come to QB Granholm’s defense. “History has yet to write whether her unflagging efforts to diversify the economy in areas like advanced manufacturing, technology and alternative energy pay long-term dividends to the state,” writes Crain’s Amy Lane. “She was left a bad hand by John Engler, and, unfairly, was forced to be the face of job losses in the state when. . . many of the auto industry’s problems were the result of decades of gross corporate incompetence,” whined MLive’s Darrel Dawsey. “She must have been thinking, how things would be different if she was starting where Rick Snyder beings with the ‘wind at his back,'” apologized Tim Skubick in the Oakland Press.

Please. Granholm’s stimulus and green subsidy economic program was doomed from the start, a retro-Keynesian solution that has failed everywhere it’s been tried from Spain to the Obama White House.

A pet of the Big Labor establishment, she didn’t lift a finger to fix the state’s long-term structural problems — a direct contrast to reformist Governor Mitch Daniels in neighboring Indiana who also endured bearish, double-digit unemployment economy but balanced the state budget.

When Politico and The Huffington Post offered Granholm a national stage to trumpet her “achievements,” Michigan Capitol Confidential’s Tom Gantert called Politico to ask the Website to explain what qualified her for such a forum.

Now, that sounds like what a sports reporter would have done.

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