John F. Russell: Elections may have been the biggest game in town this week
Steamboat Springs — The emotions were running high Tuesday night in Steamboat Springs, but unlike most of the events I cover, this game was not unfolding on a court, on a field or in any other athletic venue.
It was election night in Steamboat Springs, and as I stood inside Carl’s Tavern, the realization that I’ve been covering sporting events in our town for way too long hit me between the eyes harder than a Randy Johnson fastball. How else can I explain comparing election night to a sporting event?
But the more I analyzed the events of Tuesday night, the harder it was to not distinguish an election from a big-time sporting event: The fans were crowded around the television, the supporters cheered when their team was on top, and the candidates looked worried when things seemed to be slipping away.
When the night began, the candidates were guarded and tense. As the events unfolded, there were moments of disappointment for some, and moments of pure excitement for others. As the results continued to pour in, the faces of some candidates were filled with relief while others were overcome with the realization that months of hard work had not resulted in the outcome they hoped for.
Some races looked like last year’s Super Bowl matchup featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, while other races looked like the final game of the 2014 World Series featuring the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals.
I’ve been covering elections ever since I came to the Steamboat Pilot & Today. I don’t want to make light of what election night means to our city, our state or our country, but the similarity of election night to a sporting event always has made the evening fascinating for me.
On election night, I get to watch the emotions of the fans — or should I say supporters — sway from highs to lows. I get to see how each team’s — or should I say candidate’s — game plan unfold in the course of hours. And of course, I get to see how the men and women who run for political office react to the final outcome. That’s where you discover character of the players.
Sure, I understand that elections are not a game. I understand that politicians are not athletes, and I grasp the importance that this night will last longer than most athletic team’s seasons.
But at the core, an election is just like a playoff game. The two candidates go head-to-head, and at the end of the road there will be a winner and a loser. Along the way the fans will offer their help and support. But in the end, those who support the candidate have very little control over the outcome. They just have to sit back and see if their handiwork will earn their choice enough votes to be declared winner at the end of the night.
The thing I always seem to walk away with is the realization that the men and women who run for office put it all on the line. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the losers who have worked just as hard as the winners. But it’s also hard not to be happy for the winners who get to see all their hard work pay off.
It shouldn’t matter if you are a Democrat, if you are a Republican or an independent. It’s the process that makes this game great, and it’s hard to walk away from an election night without a huge amount of respect for those who simply took part in the game.
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