What college students can teach Chris Matthews

Patrick St. Pierre

The lingering memory of the hard-fought football game we hosted this past Saturday night has got me thinking largely in sports metaphors. Specifically, the axiom “act like you’ve been there before” comes to mind.

The saying goes both for wins and losses.  When you win big, act like you’ve been there before – you may just establish the image of a perennial winner.  And, when you have a tough loss, act like you’ve been there before too – a display of devastation will show a lack of confidence in your ability to bounce back.

If you had the good sense to be watching the game Saturday night, you witnessed one of the best college football games yet this season.  Both teams played exceptionally well and our Longhorns  can take pride in the tremendous effort they gave.  Longhorn fans, too, can rest easy knowing they provided the sort of enthusiastic and energetic support that is expected of a record-breaking crowd.   And when we lost, our fans made no bones about the fact that they’ve tasted defeat before.  In short, we were poised.  Emotionally invested throughout the game, yes, but poised at its conclusion.

A similar competition, with fewer hits to the helmet, was waged three days before kickoff when President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney squared off in the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season.  The consensus about the debate is that Romney won. 

So Romney supporters have cause to rejoice, while Obama’s camp is liable to grimace at their candidate’s poor showing.  But both Obama’s and the UT football team’s losses are only small parts of an ongoing series.  This is a notion that UT fans, by the poise they demonstrated Saturday night, seem to understand. The same cannot be said for MSNBC political commentator Chris Matthews.

Following the Denver debate, Matthews, a well documented Obama supporter, was asked for his analytical view on the evening’s dialogue.  The rant he offered in lieu of substantive rhetorical analysis has been the subject of popular media ridicule for the past week and was mocked in a comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live.

Since Matthews is given license to provide his personal opinions, his political views often go unchecked.  This is by design.  Matthews isn’t a reserved moderator but rather an invested spectator.  In this way he is much the analog of the UT football fans.  And, when his team fell short of its goal, he abandoned all reason and despaired.  It wasn’t pretty.

A frazzled Chris Matthews, his hair and suit jacket disheveled, is now seared into my memory and has done more to immortalize Obama’s lackluster showing than Romney supporters could have hoped for.  He was understandably upset that his candidate had fallen short.  But he dealt with defeat in an unbecoming manner and created the feeling that he, and perhaps President Obama, had not been there before.  Though he was expressing his rightful frustration, his rant showed a lack of confidence in his candidate’s fortitude.

I am proud to say that UT football fans showed great trust in their team’s resilience following Saturday’s loss.  We supported our team fervently throughout the contest and we accepted the defeat with composure. The manner in which we accept loss likely doesn’t mean much to our opponent, but it proves to our team and ourselves that this is a circumstance that we can handle.  Hopefully the team can derive some confidence from that.

It may be a tough sell to make that rowdy, obnoxious and often intoxicated football fans are a more poised bunch than the political media elite.  But Longhorn fans don’t mind admitting that we’ve been there before, both in victory and defeat.  Why political pundits act astonished at their candidate’s mistakes or poor showings is beyond my understanding.  I’m just happy to have been one of the thousands with horns raised after Saturday’s game.

St. Pierre is an English and philosophy junior from Austin.