By Curtis Haley of Eugene, Oregon. Curtis describes himself as "an incoming freshman at University of Oregon, former national president of DECA (student organization of 185,000 members), and an ardent Democrat." Previously, he contributed "Lane County: What we have here is a failure to communicate."
It's NBA Finals time again. When faced with the matchup of the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers - the basketball equivalent of choosing between vanilla ice cream and vanilla BEAN ice cream - I'm with the superstar - 21-year old wunderkind LeBron James and the guys from Ohio (that a Pistons loss virtually guarantees ex-Blazer Rasheed Wallace threatening to kill the ref on any given night was just a plus).
If you don't watch a lot of basketball, don't worry. My point doesn't require you to actually give a crap about the NBA.
Here's the skinny on LeBron for those of you who don't know: The guy is good. Drafted straight out of high school, hailed as the savior of the perpetually lackluster Cavs, immediately the recipient of a fatty Nike contract that spawned a worldwide trend of "Witness" t-shirts and "The Lebrons" commercials.
Right when he hit the league, people were building him up to be the next Michael Jordan. But with no championships, no breakthrough games and no "Did he just do that?!" moments, he hardly was living up to the hype. It hit me the other day, after LeBron put up 10 and 19 points, respectively, in back-to-back 79-76 losses (not to mention choking on the last possession of both games) that the hype surrounding him and his relatively weak NBA resume captures perfectly my feelings about Barack Obama.
As written here on BlueOregon and on just about every other political blog out there, a lot of people have been touting Obama as "the truth" ever since his arrival on the scene at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He is apparently garnering huge amounts of early support from young people and is playing the role of the knight on the white horse.
But aside from the hype, aside from the excitement, what exactly has Obama brought to the table?
Is it experience? Clinton obviously has more. Is it progressive ideas? Edwards has shown himself to be much more so on important issues such as health care, and certainly Iraq. Is it his ability to win? He is not currently leading in any of the states being polled.
I think it's something different than any of those things. The energy of Barack Obama's campaign is more idea than substance.
When LeBron entered the NBA, everyone WANTED to be excited about him the same way they used to get excited about Michael Jordan - he was young, talented, camera friendly and had a nice smile - best of all, he didn't seem to tout around all of the emotional baggage of the last "next big thing", Kobe Bryant.
What Americans, and especially people my age, see in Barack Obama is hope that we might be ushering in a new era of politics, filled with enough hope and change to undo the horrific amounts of damage eight years of George W. Bush has done to the American psyche. That he happens to be a younger guy, an African-American and from humble roots just nurtures the mystique and hope even more.
But the political world is a hard place - particularly as a Democrat running against a Republican hate machine that will throw anything at you without any regard for truth or morality. I look back at the painful memories of the 2004 campaign - John Kerry's deafening silence in regard to the Swift Boat vets; John Edwards smiling his way through his debate with Dick Cheney, possibly the easiest person in the world to make look bad - and I don't get hopeful. I get scared that progressives might build Obama up into the savior, only to have him torn apart like a paper lion once the primaries are over. Momentum will carry you far when the wind's blowing in your favor, but brick walls aren't as receptive.
I want to believe in Obama as much as anyone - the thing is, he does have the POTENTIAL to embody hope the way Kennedy or FDR did. But in my book he's still a lot of marketing and very little gametime cred.
So what would Obama need to do to make me a convert? Start by facing Hillary Clinton head-on. Enough playing coy. Enough saying things that sound good that don't mean anything. I don't want to support a candidate because I like his style - I want to support a candidate because I like what he has to say about health care, or education, or Iraq, or ANYTHING AT ALL. When the rubber hits the road, I want to know that the paper tiger has some roar and bite to him.
Three games after he choked, LeBron James went into the Palace at Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons, and put up 48 points. The last 25 points of the game. 29 of the last 30. Impossible shots being made on the biggest stage, in hostile territory, in two overtimes with the game on the line. Watch the highlights on YouTube and hear the commentator say the magic words: "This is Jordan-esque". He willed his team into the NBA Finals.
That's why I now consider myself a LeBron convert: A "Witness" to his greatness.
And it's why I'm NOT an Obamaniac - yet.