If you haven't guessed already, or you're new to my work, politics rank a close second to sports on my list of diversions. Whereas the athletic arenas offer their share of heart-warming triumph, the political landscape holds my interest more for its constant theater of the tragically absurd.
Kind of like watching a train wreck where the passengers are all clowns.
That and these are the individuals who collectively shape our country by carrying out the will of the people.
Intelligent minds differ on what 'people' has meant lately. You can make a very strong argument the recent definition in Washington, D.C. has been leaning more towards special interest groups than it has the American public. With one of the most popular special interests being the politicians' own pockets.
Which brings me to the latest example of outstanding leadership and character—the honorable Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter.
That modifier in front of 'Senator' might come as a surprise to some Pennsylvanians who've been away from mass media for a week or so, but it's accurate. I'm guessing almost everyone (else) knows by now so I won't rehash the nitty-gritties, but Specter just jumped from the sinking Republican ship to the temporary safety of the Democrat's life raft.
Listen, I have ZERO love for either party.
As far as I'm concerned, both the GOP and the DNP have become abominations to what American politics should be about—common sense, common decency, basic honesty, courage, discretion, etc.
Anyone who walks in lockstep with the likes of Sarah Palin (or whoever's feeding her lines), Nancy Pelosi, Rush Limbaugh, Chuck Schumer, Michael Steele, Barbara Boxer, Glenn Beck, or any other ideologue from either side is not for me.
These people are not sincerely open to opposing ideas and that disqualifies them, in my mind, for any mantle of leadership. But that's not really my point.
Regardless of whether Specter's move was motivated by anything other than the huge deficit he was facing in his bid for re-election in the PA Republican primary, regardless of whether the historically centrist's flip of script is morally righteous in the grand scheme, the fact remains he just screwed over a lot of people who helped him become what he is today.
That never sits well with me.
So, to the newest Democratic Senator—unless the mess in Minnesota has officially been decided while I was writing this—I dedicate my All-Time Turncoat Team, brought together by their loyalty to disloyalty rather than a common sporting endeavor (in no particular order):
There are several things you just don't do in Major League Baseball. The first four guys I picked are guilty of breaking two of the game's cardinal rules.
Boggs jumps to mind most easily because, after starring for the Boston Red Sox and epitomizing the franchise for most of 11 years, the slap-happy third baseman chose the pinstripes of the New York Yankees rather than head out West under the employ of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This is a man who won five batting titles for the BoSox and would've won a sixth had he gotten enough plate appearances in his rookie year. He absolutely abused the Green Monster and was the heartbeat of the Red Sox Nation before it was the nationally tedious entity it is now.
The memorable shot of a teary Boggs after the 1986 World Series debacle should've been his enduring legacy.
Instead, it will be riding a horse around Yankee Stadium after finally winning a World Series with Boston's No. 1 bogeyman. Or trying to wear a Tampa Bay Devil Ray hat on his Hall of Fame plaque for a little extra cash.
Let's move on.
Damon, like Boggs before him, decided he needed a change of scenery after his stay in Boston terminated. Unlike Boggs, Damon couldn't blame his move to NYC's Junior Circuit ballclub on an insatiable need to finally win baseball's highest accolade.
I can at least respect that part of Boggs' reasoning. No such joy for Johnny.
Nope, after being one of the primary Band of Idiots or whatever who powered Boston to the 2004 World Series and finally broke the Curse of the Bambino (or the curse of a painfully tired storyline), Damon took his toys and moved into Yankee Stadium for more dough.
Who can forget the classic scene of Boston fans throwing fake money at him upon his return to Fenway?
To Johnny's credit, he's always showed a good sense of humor and it was on display that moment as well.
Roger Dodger makes a trio of Boston Red Sox who've betrayed the blood rivalry between the Sox and the Yankees. In one of the few displays of decency in Clemens' career, he made a pitstop in Toronto before signing up with the Bombers.
And, in all fairness, Clemens was traded by the Blue Jays with a lot left in his tank so he couldn't have really quit rather than report to New York i.e. he didn't have a choice.
But who wants to be fair when the target is Roger? Not me.
Another member of the '86 Boston club that had its heart broken in October of the same year, Clemens would win two rings with the Yankees and throw one broken bat at another human-being while on the diamond.
After head-hunting the same individual (Mike Piazza) for no apparent reason. So who cares if it's a stretch to call him a traitor?
Again, not me.
One of the best San Francisco Giants during my tenure as a fan of the Orange and Black rounds out the MLB representation.
Kent broke a different rule, etched in stone—he eventually landed himself in Los Angeles Dodger blue after helping the Gents to the edge of the Promised Land in 2002.
Never one of my favorite Giants, Jeff was certainly one of the most valuable ones during his days in SF (which began in 1997). Furthermore, he became a Hall of Famer in a Giants uniform, swiping the Most Valuable Player award from Barry Bonds in 2000.
Of course, the signs of discontent were always there—who can forget Kent was one of the few players who could move Bonds to violence in defense of another player?
And Kent made good on those signs when, after spending two years in Houston, the second baseman took up residence for the hated Bums in Chavez Ravine.
True, Jeff was a Southern Cali kid so he was really going home.
I don't care (although I never booed him when he came back to SF—being a good Giant always earns you that courtesy).
Not only did Haley move from our San Francisco 49ers to the loathsome Dallas Cowboys, he did so while the rivalry was at a fever pitch. Even worse, there's a school of thought that says his defection from the 'Niner machine turned the tide in those battles and allowed the 'pokes to become the dominating dynasty of the early-1990s.
With Charles anchoring a defense that caddied for the Triplets and talented offensive unit, Dallas repeatedly stomped out the Bay Area's gridiron hopes.
As if his move alone didn't cause enough damage to Steve Young's legacy, the defensive lineman showed his true courage by physically attacking the Stormin' Mormon when Steve was at his peak of quarterbacking prowess.
Hey, there's a fair fight if I've ever seen one.
Ken Norton Jr.
Another key player from those San Francisco 49er-Dallas Cowboy confrontations in the '90s, the son of the former heavyweight by the same name made the same move as Haley, but in the right direction.
After starring on the same Dallas defense with Haley that aided and abetted those Super Bowl victories, Ken realized the error of his ways. His revelation into the true nature of good and evil was subsequently vindicated when, fresh off victories with the 'pokes in '93 and '94, Ken joined the Niners in time to contribute to another SB victory in '95.
Let's just forget about that Dallas championship in 1996.
In the process, Ken Norton became the first National Football League player to win three consecutive Super Bowl rings.
Anyone willing to turn traitor on a European soccer club is either colossally brave or the same magnitude of stupid. To say fans over the Pond take their football seriously is to say Antarctica is not for warm-weather people.
A fanbase that includes members willing to throw flaming projectiles onto the field or sporadically kill in defense of a team's honor should be treated with respect—purely for your own protection.
So Figo's move from FC Barcelona to Real Madrid was no trivial thing.
I won't pretend to understand the intricacies of the Euro football structure, but suffice it to say Barcelona backers were none too pleased.
Or maybe getting a pig's head thrown at you while taking corners is a compliment in Spain. Call me crazy, but I don't think so.
In the spirit of disclosure, I've never heard of this hombre. Like I said, I don't pretend to be a soccer fan.
What I do know is, when reading about the animosity Figo's departure engendered, the same author listed the bitterness left in Campbell's wake as the more intense flavor. If you outrank someone who's had a decapitated head thrown at him, you've really accomplished something so who am I to argue?
Campbell was the captain for Tottenham Hotspur before moving on to Arsenal's greener pastures and hopes of playing in the Champions League. Apparently, this is a serious no-no.
Complicating matters, Campbell made his transgression even for deplorable by reneging on public statements that he would never play for rival (?) Arsenal, assuring his fans he would stay with Tottenham, and turning down a contract that would've made him the Spurs' (don't know if I'm using that correctly) highest paid player.
Although I'm not sure he'll answer to it, Campbell has been dubbed Judas for his meritorious efforts.
The Antithesis—Jackie Robinson
What more needs to be said about the man who broke MLB's color barrier and helped usher in a new era of civil rights in the United States of America?
The forever Brooklyn Dodger retired rather than accept a trade to his rival New York Giants (although the truth may not be quite as neat as that).
So what if Robinson's statement was a direct affront to my favorite organization of all-time?
THAT is the kind of loyalty and character I can admire, and it's far more important than an entirely appropriate dig at my team. It's also an element in severely short supply today.