Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Road to the Nomination - Dems
In the 1-8, Mike Gravel is certainly overmatched against the well-funded, and even better-connected Hillary Clinton. The crowd in Ames will almost certainly be at least 90% pro-Clinton, and her coffers and reputation have produced what is the equivalent of a full-fledged free agency juggernaut. Yet Gravel, though old and hobbling on a bum knee, is a gunner to the end. He may not be able to take out Hillary or even stay close through the second half, but the potential is ripe for him to expose Clinton’s weakness from the left, right and center. Please believe he’ll be bombing threes all night and bringing the hard fouls on the defensive end.
Next up on the 4-5 docket we have what has grown into the second biggest rivalry after Clinton-Edwards. Biden, a powerhouse program from the 80s that has lost its winning percentage but not its swagger and adherence to the fundamentals, has been getting snippy with Richardson for months now hoping to gain the full mantle of experience and foreign policy know-how. Going against Joe Biden as a low-seed is like playing an underachieving team coached by Mike Krzyzewski. They may seem eminently beatable, but the lingering fear subsides. But that underachieving cloud could be a big problem against Richardson. The big Governor has size and athleticism, and those are two things you can’t teach. Biden might call his plays gimmicky, but the crowd loves them, especially at home. Ultimately, Richardson’s innovative play-calling and charm offensive should be too much to overtake, but if Biden does it, it will be with defense.
Down at 3-6, Edwards has the clear advantage over Dodd. A lot of critics hailed Dodd’s 6 seed as the most overrated in the tournament, but his endorsements and experience make him a formidable candidate. Dodd may take the high road, and play the game with an ear held open to whispers of the ancients, but it likely won’t be enough to withstand Edwards. The Dems’ most recent veep choice has the intensity, talent and sweet shooting stroke that might carry him far. Edwards could rack up a few technicals along the way, and garner the ire of a hostile crowd, but it is that same chip on his shoulder that makes him want the ball in crunch time. And those kinds of scorers usually take their teams multiple rounds into the tournament.
Finally at 2-7 is Kucinich and Obama. The man detractors call Obambi for his good sportsmanship award has been finding his swagger of late after a cupcake city early schedule that had teams rolling over in deference to his charm and often mesmerizing displays of hoops acuity. Kucinich, on the other hand, commands disrespect from his opponents. Short, disheveled, and hailing from a weak conference (the US House), Kucinich never gets any calls from referees, though crowds tend to like his underdog appeal. Not as much as they like Obama, though, and even though the man they call “Kooch” can display a true interpretation of the anti-war defense, Obama’s sheer talent is too much to overcome.
In the second round of the upper bracket, Richardson’s only chance is for Gravel to wear down Clinton heavily. She is quicker, nastier and deeper than the other Bill, but if she is overly tired from her first round run with gritty Gravel, or has been exposed as too reliant on the run and gun, there is a chance that Richardson’s size and craftiness can slow down the pace and sneak by in a low-scoring game.
The next frame of the lower rung is much more interesting. Both candidates are extremely talented, and known for their respective offensive skill sets. Still, their styles of play couldn’t be further from one another. Obama is the prototypical smooth, academic good guy. His jumper belongs in an instructional video. On the same token, Edwards’ stroke is real pretty but he plays with a gritty fire unbeknownst to Obama. Barack has the talent edge, and the height advantage, but Edwards has been in the spotlight of the convention before. He has tasted it and he wants it. That said, there is no second place in politics. Could they fashion a truce and cakewalk it through the semis with the hope of facing fresh a fatigued Clinton for the sake of the bottom bracket? Time will tell, but there is no doubt they will need their shots to fall, and a few of Clinton’s to miss, if not an outright early upset, to make the big stage. But remember this is the tournament, where you never say never.
Break out the net-clipping scissors. Call forth the raucous crowds. Summon the heartburn medicine and find a towel for your tears. It’s the road to the nomination, baby. Primary Season 2007 is upon us.