The ‘sport-ish’ George Santos
Only Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) could turn a simple baseball cheer into a scandal. On this, however, I rise to his defense.
The latest controversy is a cringe-worthy social media post in which Santos celebrates the new baseball season by rendering the ubiquitous cheer, “Let’s go, Mets!” His performance suggests that he’s either never actually heard the chant or is so tone deaf that he really shouldn’t be singing in public.
The Mets’ war cry is a drumbeat — simple and unmusical. It’s hard to leave open to interpretation and virtually impossible to screw-up. “Let’s go, Mets! Let’s go, Mets!” That’s it. In CitiField, it’s usually underscored by bone-rattling, repetitive thumping from the stadium loudspeakers, like a pile-driver.
In Santos’s post, he turned the three beats into more of a melody. “Let’s go, Meh-hetts” he crooned. Three syllables somehow became four. The final notes made “Mets” sound like a London police siren. The cheer suddenly had chord structure. Complexity. For real Mets fans, it was instantly inauthentic, containing all the veracity of a corked bat.
The problem for the Mets so far this season has been debilitated pitching. The problem for Santos is his debilitated pitch.
It was yet another example of the sum of his many parts: a man making a fool of himself trying to fool us.
Yet, I don’t blame Santos for at least trying to appear relatable. There’s nothing new about a politician’s cringy use of sports to appeal to the average sports fan. In a dramatic example of how not to be relatable, Donald Trump landed his helicopter on the field of the Somerset Patriots to throw out a first pitch. (Also, Trump reportedly practiced singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for two weeks before messing up the lyrics at Wrigley Field on July 9, 2000.)
Santos may have been out of tune, but others have sounded out of touch. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) once referred to a basketball hoop as a “basketball ring.” At a 2016 campaign rally in Pittsburg, Trump asked the crowd, “How’s Joe Paterno?” (Paterno died in 2012.) Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s 2010 Senate race sputtered when she claimed that Red Sox legend Curt Schilling was a Yankee fan (which is like saying Marjorie Taylor Greene is a member of The Squad). John Kerry, while campaigning for president in Wisconsin, referred to the venerable Lambeau field as “Lambert” field. President Obama once called the Miami Heat the Miami Heats.
Topping my list of campaign sports bloopers is Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) game of football catch, resulting in a headline his press team didn’t quite anticipate: “Marco Rubio Nails Kid in Face with Football, Teaches Child Important Life Lesson.” Also on the list is the time George H.W. Bush turned bowling into an Olympic diving competition.
I’m not immune to political pandering through sports. As a congressman on Long Island, I declined every invitation to throw out the first pitch at my local minor league stadium. I just didn’t see the political upside of humiliating myself in front of thousands of people. Also, while my knowledge of baseball is solid and my expertise on the Mets unassailable, on some sports – hockey, for instance – I skated on thin ice. In the land of the Rangers and Islanders, I once assumed that a hat trick involved a magician and a rabbit. Still, I dutifully showed up at sporting events, wore team colors and posed with any professional athlete willing to be in the vicinity of a staffer with a camera.
Politicians have always worked the connection between sports and politics clumsily and skillfully. (The most inspiring I ever witnessed was President George W. Bush’s perfect pitch after 9-11 at Yankee Stadium.) So, it’s understandable that George Devolder Santos (or whatever his real name is) would give it a try.
His real blunder was posting the Mets cheer knowing that it would be closely scrutinized (in this case, by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer). If you’re sure that everything you do will be vetted, validated and verified, then, dude, learn the freaking chant. Go to a game. Watch one on television, listen to Mets legendary broadcaster Howie Rose on the radio. Ask a Mets fan (or, for that matter, anyone who lives within, say, a 100-mile radius of Flushing, where the Mets play).
But that may be asking too much from a guy who goes right for the wool and tries to yank it over our eyes; who tried to correct his lie about being Jewish by saying that he really meant to convey being “Jew-ish”; who falsely stated that he was a star player on the Baruch College volleyball team.
The latter claim explains everything. George Santos is not really into sports after all.
Steve Israel represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives over eight terms and was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now director of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.
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