What Politicians Can Learn from Sports

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ASHBURN, Va. -- George Allen knows a thing or two about politics.

He spent four years as the governor of Virginia and served as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also represented the Commonwealth in the U.S. Senate.

He also knows a thing or two about sports. In the early 1970s, he was a quarterback for the University of Virginia Cavaliers football team.

Allen carries the name of his late father, George Allen, Sr.., the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who took the Washington Redskins to the 1973 Super Bowl.

Learning from Sports

CBN News talked to Allen recently at the Redskins training facility about his new book titled What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sports.

The books covers the lessons Allen says athletes take for granted, but those in political power seem to ignore.

"It's everything from the meritocracy of sports -- the equal opportunity on a level playing field and that the players, coaches, their schemes, their effort determines whether they win or lose," Allen explained. "Unlike the redistributionist approach of Washington."

"Like you would take Steeler Super Bowl trophies, one of them and give them to the Detroit Lions, because they haven't won a Super Bowl. That's not the way it is in sports," he said. "You earn success. "It's equal opportunity, not equal results."

Like Kissing Your Sister

That's why one of the chapters in Allen's book is titled, "A Tie is Like Kissing Your Sister." He specifically points to University of Nebraska coach Tom Osborne's choice in the 1984 Orange Bowl game.

The Cornhuskers could have won a national championship by simply kicking an extra point and tying the game. Instead, Osborne decided to go for a two-point conversion and the victory.

The play failed and Nebraska lost the game and the title. But Osborne gained the respect of sports fans across the country.

"They don't want to have ties, as much as the government would to think that every player would want to tie at the end of the game, or in the Washington point of view, that everyone should cross the finish line holding hands together," Allen told CBN News.

"Arm chair quarterbacks talk about that," he pointed out.

"There's a lot of arm chair quarterbacks in Washington who think they know better than families, mothers, and fathers, how to raise their children and entrepreneurs how to run their business," he explained. "And think they ought to tell us all sorts of things - telling us what kind of energy sources we ought to be utilizing, how much income we should have, what kind of health care should be dictated and mandated from Washington,"

Fans Watch the Game, Not the Refs

The former Virginia senator said government should glean something from the sports principle that fans don't pay to watch officials officiate. They're there, he says, simply to create a level playing field.

Likewise, Allen doesn't think the government ought to be in the business of bailing out failing companies. And he added when the referees can't be trusted, everyone loses.

"No one would want a referee making up a rule in the middle of a game," Allen argued. "The rule may be a tough rule."

"Well, there's the rules committee that changes the rules after the season, not in the middle of the game, which means federal judges - if they don't like a law or if they think it's an unjust result - they apply the law. They're not to be legislators," he explained, applying the sports analogy to how government should work.

"Elected representatives of the people are those who make the laws, not unelected judges appointed for life wearing robes," Allen argued.

Allen said there's also another lesson to be learned from the gridiron.

"You never punt on first down. Punting the football is failure," he said.

But that's exactly what politicians in Washington have been doing on energy policy, squandering the opportunity to become less dependent on other countries, Allen explained.

"Any other country in the world, if they had our resources, they would consider it a blessing. Our government looks at these resources as a curse," he said.

"We're the Saudi Arabia of the world when it comes to coal. And we ought to creatively and cleanly use it," he said.

Connecting Politics and Sports

People will want to know after reading his book, if former the former senator is willing to take these principles he's learned over the years and re-enter the game of politics.

He's been on the sidelines since 2008, when an off-the-cuff reference during a campaign stop cost him re-election to the Senate.

"This fellow over here in the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere," Allen is seen on video telling the crowd.

"I very much regret it and I take responsibility for a mistake, even if it wasn't unintentional. It was a mistake," He told CBN News about the remark.

Even that incident he said is a reminder of the connection between politics and sports. Both are rough and tumble and not for the faint of heart.

"My father would say, 'When you win, you're reborn. When you lose, you die a little," he recalled.

On Monday, Jan. 24, the former senator announced he intends reclaim his old Senate seat. For now his focus is on helping the candidates who adhere to the common sense conservative principles he writes about in his book.

*Original broadcast August 2, 2010.

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Lee Webb

Lee Webb

CBN News Anchor

Lee Webb serves as news anchor for The 700 Club, the flagship program of The Christian Broadcasting Network. He also anchors Newswatch, CBN News' 30-minute daily news program. As a 31-year veteran in the television news business, Lee brings a wealth of expertise and credibility to CBN News.  Follow Lee on Twitter @LeeVWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/LeeWebbCBN.