Petty fanhood dispute sneaks into Congress

Wed, Mar 17

Talk about a bracket buster: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) reportedly proposed a resolution to honor the University of Maryland's basketball team for making the NCAA tournament and sporting the ACC player and coach of the year -- Greivis Vasquez and Gary Williams, respectively -- but was verbally opposed by Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) Tuesday evening, never mind that congressional resolutions honoring jocks are commonplace (John Stockton, Heisman winner Mark Ingram), wholly symbolic and utterly harmless.

The reason for Campbell's dissent, which included a gratuitous shot at Maryland's low graduation rate? In all likelihood, petty payback. Last year, Hoyer pulled a similar resolution from the floor that would have honored Cal-Irvine's national title-winning men's volleyball team. Touché.

While some might see the Hoyer-Campbell tête-à-tête as an egregious example of Washington partisanship gone wild -- the sort of shortsighted political feuding that prevents the consideration and passage of serious, important legislation -- I see it as something else: the kind of partisanship I can get behind. After all, this isn't Democrats vs. Republicans, Keynesians vs. Randians, big states vs. small, corporate lobbyists vs. everyone else's well-being. This is sports, the one arena where utilitarian compromise and respectfully agreeing to disagree is not only unnecessary, but also ruins the fun. After all, what's the point of being a fan if not to revel in tribal allegiances, tit-for-tat name-calling and intractable, irrational rivalries and grievances? Sports allows us to indulge the best of our worst instincts, and do so in a safe, controlled environment where no one gets seriously hurt, outside of the rare mascot fight.

Hmm. Come to think of it, that also describes the legislative process (well, except the mascot part). Perhaps Hoyer and Campbell are on to something. Maybe spiking irrelevant resolutions out of pure spite is exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind -- better to settle matters on the House floor than in a side hallway.

If nothing else, their squabble is easier to understand than the health care debate.