Political Physics: The Polamalu- Obama Game Theory


a blogumn by Monique King-Viehland and Brian Viehland

Polamalu & Obama – Two Men Who Can Turn the Game Around

obamasteelersMy husband and I woke up Monday morning, basking in the glory of our victorious Pittsburgh Steelers who clinched the AFC Championship last night and now have a shot at claiming their sixth Super Bowl victory. Yes, this was MLK Day and the day before the Obama Inauguration, but all else paled in comparison to the need to begin preparations for our “Black & Gold” Super Bowl Party.

About 5pm or so, reality set in that I had flittered the entire day away in “Steeler Bliss” and had yet to identify what this week’s blog would be about. Then Brian (my brilliant husband) suggested the convergence of two of our favorite things – the Steelers and Obama.

God I love him.

1st Quarter – The Clinton Years

Twice before, the Pittsburgh Steelers had held AFC championship games at Heinz Field and twice they’d walked off the field watching their opposition celebrate a trip to the Super Bowl. But within the first few minutes of the game it was clear that this was different. The Steelers had a 13-point lead for the entire first quarter of the game. It was a glorious time and it felt as if it would go on forever.

During the eight years of the Clinton Presidency, if you look at the typical economic indicators, it too was a glorious time and it felt as if it would go on forever. According to the Progressive Policy Institute, on average annually during the Clinton Administration: jobs increased by 2.38%, jobs with higher than average income increased 4.7%, per capita gross domestic product increased 2.42%, median household income increased 1.65%, the number of people who moved out of poverty increased 2.29% and homeownership increased 1.94%.

We were prosperous. The economy was doing so well, we began to take it for granted. Like the Steelers took that 13 – 0 lead for granted.

2nd & 3rd Quarters – The Bush Years

The Steelers held a 13-point lead for much of the game before Jim Leonhard’s 45-yard punt return, a pass interference penalty on Bryant McFadden at the 3-yard line, a couple of touchdowns and the lead dropped to 2, with the Steelers leading 16-14. We were stunned, thinking: “what the hell happened?”

Many of us have spent the last eight years asking the same question. The glory of the Clinton Years was gone in what felt like a flash. Then there was the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the foreclosure crisis, the implosion of the financial markets and a whole lot of other things in between. The economic indicators told a clear story. On average annually during the Bush Administration, jobs decreased by .17%, jobs with higher than average incomes decreased by 1.0%, per capita gross domestic product increased 1.62% compared to 2.42% during the prior eight years, median household income decreased 1.15%, the number of people who moved out of poverty decreased 4.33% and homeownership increased .37% compared to 1.94% during the prior eight years.

Not to mention our retirement fund value was nearly cut in half, much like the Steeler’s lead in the third quarter, and unfortunately we were not alone.

4th Quarter – Obama Election

Then came a glimmer of hope.

Facing a third down deep in Baltimore territory with just more than four minutes to play, the Baltimore Raven’s quarterback, Joe Flacco made a mistake from which the Baltimore Raven’s team could not recover – much like the mistake Hilary Clinton and John McCain made in underestimating Barack Obama.

He threw a pass that was intercepted by Pittsburgh safety, Troy Polamalu, at the Baltimore 40-yard line, and then Polamalu returned the ball for a touchdown with only 4:39 remaining in the game. It was funny because during the pre-game chatter, one of the commentators noted that although Polamalu was good at intercepting the ball he was not good at returning it for a touchdown unlike Baltimore’s Ed Reed.

We could flashback to early in the Democratic primaries, when pundits were chattering about how although Obama’s campaign was gaining steam, Hilary Clinton was the frontrunner candidate for the Democratic Nomination because she would have a better chance than Obama of winning the White House.

But like Polamalu, Obama defied the pundits, clinched the nomination and ran it in for a touchdown in the November Elections.

Today, Inauguration Day, America is going to its own Super Bowl, celebrating a hard and well-earned win in the elections. We still have the game ahead of us, but today we can celebrate the victories so far, root for our team, and support the players any way we can.

I hope both the Steelers and America come out victorious!