Friends, Romans, fellow Americans: Who had the worst year, President Barack Obama or Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan? The high-class coach was just banished. POTUS is self-exiled on a faraway island in the Pacific.
Here in Washington, football and politics are all we talk about from late summer up to now, the end of the year. One unites us; the other divides us. It's a delicate balance we depend on to keep us together as a sane and civil capital. Men in our midst are distraught because 2013 ended badly on both counts.
Politics and the Redskins – what else is there? We love them as the toughest games is town: brutal, bruising, often losing pursuits. In fact, politics and pro football have ancestors in ancient Rome. Just think of the emperor and the masses watching the gladiators in bloody clashes.
Actually, Obama and the Redskins coach and team are not good enough to make it to the Roman Coliseum. They would be torn to pieces for sport. You too, RGIII. Robert Griffin III, the young injured Redskins quarterback, may have too much responsibility on his shoulders next season.
Meanwhile, the holiday buzz goes on.
Shanahan got fired by team owner Daniel Snyder after a 3-13 season came to a painful close Sunday in the freezing rain of New Jersey. The beloved Redskins lost in disgrace: New York Giants 20, Redskins 6. The score doesn't tell you about the mass hysteria that went with this losing season. The Washington Post sportswriters have cried enough tears to fill the Potomac and the Anacostia.
Obama lost untold political capital from his botched health care reform "rollout." It was a gift to his Republican enemies and a terrible fumble after three years of administration preparation for his landmark legislation. It happened in October, right in front of our disbelieving eyes – on both sides of the political aisle. And of course it was a blow to presidential supporters – like sports fans – whose morale needed a win.
Yes, this is the president who ran on the presumption that he resembled Abraham Lincoln. By contrast to the Civil War president, who was always doing, Obama accomplished virtually nothing during his fifth year in office.
Obama delivered neither gun control nor immigration reform. He came late to the game of learning the language of engaging Congress – meaning, Democratic friends and allies he needs to win.
Here's the thing: Our elegant Obama thought the presidency was an individual sport, like his oratory on the stump. No sir. Politics is an intense contact team sport, even for the president, from the first play. Unlike a good emperor, our president does not inspire fear among enemies or conspirators.
Coach Shanahan's Redskins also fell down on the job before our disbelieving eyes. His salary was $7 million a season, they say, and resentment and intrigue began to swirl around him during the long losing streak. Along with his tense relationship with the hard-nosed Snyder, he did not handle Griffin, the charismatic young quarterback, well. He inexplicably let him play hurt – but I won't revisit the world of hurt and scrapes. We need to move on.
Yet I mean to say this: Let's say Shanahan had the most dismal year, though Obama was a close second. Shall we? Coaches can be fired at a whim; presidents can't be fired by the people (at least not yet). Besides, many of us like Obama and wish for him to succeed.
I am one of those people. Thus it cheered me to see that John Podesta, Bill Clinton's chief of staff, will be joining the Obama White House in the new year. Podesta is a fierce winner and policy expert who will bring cohesion to the White House's strategy on Capitol Hill (and other fronts). Mark my words.
Podesta's appointment shows that Obama is smart enough to change a losing game – and so let's see happen in 2014. May the Redskins follow suit. Happy new year.