Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

‘West Wing’ and Sports Fit Perfectly

I would write about “The West Wing” in this column every single week if I could find some way to make it seem at least somewhat relevant.

Well, since the release of season three on DVD, a presidential election and the opening night of the NBA all aligned perfectly this Tuesday, I figured I probably wouldn’t get a better chance than this any time soon.

And in my head, “The West Wing” is pure Americana, and Americana includes sports – go with me on this one – so this seems like a perfectly fair correlation.

I think I was inspired by a scene in the third episode from season three (of which I’ve watched nine episodes in the last two days) in which Bruno tells Leo that the Pacers had beat the Cavaliers in overtime.

You would have had to watch “West Wing” in high school to know that Bruno was the campaign manager, but you just had to turn on ESPN this week to know that the exact same score – Pacers over the Cavs in double overtime – graced our TV screens four years later.

If you think about it, “The West Wing” is full of sports.

The senior staff bets on college football, making decisions based on who has the better record (Charlie) or who has the most ex-Notre Dame players (the president).

Toby is a Yankees fan. Josh likes the Mets.

The president cheers for the Celtics. Danny Concannon is a Knicks fan.

In “Five Votes Down,” we learn that the president doesn’t play golf, but instead plays chess, even against himself. According to Josh, “real golfers don’t use carts.”

Listen to this connection, which might be the best of all: the “Secret Plan to Fight Inflation” from a season one episode called “Celestial Navigation.”

In short, the president’s staff creates a “secret plan” that the president has to fight inflation and then proceeds to deny its existence.

I cannot help but compare this to the “Chinese Secret Plan to Win a Lot of Gold Medals in Beijing in 2008.” Of course the Chinese government doesn’t really call it that – and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t deny its existence – but you get the point. It’s actually called the “119 Project,” which is pretty creepy if you ask me.

“China knows it has a modern history of political humiliation. And when we finally opened ourselves to the outside world 100 years ago, we realized how left behind we were,” Zhao Yu, a sports historian, told the China Daily earlier this year. “That’s why gold medals weigh so much to Chinese people.” (See? Politics, sports . maybe?)

And they’re not messing around with this plan. The Chinese officials are ready to spend and do whatever it takes to continue its upward trajectory of medals.

U.S. Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson traveled to China this summer to help coach Chinese track athletes. The Chinese Olympic Committee has agreed to expand the size of its national teams by adding as many as 700 first-team athletes and 1,200 for second-string teams.

As an added incentive, the country may increase the cash bonuses awarded to each of its Olympic medal winners. In Athens, the gold medalists took home about $18,000 to a country where residents earn about $1,000 a year on average.

“Are you telling me that not only did you invent a secret plan to win a lot of medals,” Hu Jintao says to his deputy chief of staff, who is not Josh Lyman, “but now you don’t support it?”

So maybe the connection between TV politics and sports isn’t as discrete as one might assume at first glance. In “The Crackpots and These Women,” to add another example, President Bartlett brings in a ringer to play in his pick-up basketball game. His associate director of the Council on Physical Fitness is played by none other than Juwan Howard. Why the producers asked Howard of all people, I have no idea. Nevertheless, it’s the NBA injecting itself into NBC, and it all ties together in the end.

In reality, only in Washington, D.C., and probably only at Georgetown, would a sports columnist have no problem relating “West Wing” to sports without mentioning “Sports Night.”

So, as a final reflection on election 2004: I’ll take Aaron Sorkin as my starting point guard and Larry Brown for president.

Erin Brown is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a contributing editor for The Hoya. She can be reached at Running The Option appears every Friday.

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