Alex Massie

Pennsylvania State vs Ohio State

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For what little it is worth, I think Barack Obama will carry Ohio with something to spare. I also find it quite hard to believe that he could lose Pennsylvania. Still, the argument has always been that in both these states he "struggles" to "connect" with white men. Well he has a chance to do so on Saturday night.

I assume John McCain's campaign will be buying plenty of advertising during tomorrow's Ohio State-Penn State showdown. But I also assume Obama can more or less afford to purchase it all himself. It's the biggest college football game in the midwest this year (alas) and amongst certain demographics seems likely to have higher TV ratings in OH and PA than any of the presidential debates.

Clearly this OSU-PSU match-up invites comparison with the Obama-McCain race. Ordinarily you'd say McCain is Joe Paterno and that Jay Paterno was Sarah Palin. But PSU's offensive (and after last week's game against Michigan, I mean that in both senses of the term) makeover seems to muddy the waters here. Then again, Jay Paterno, like Mrs Palin, has re-energised the true believers who, well, believe all over again. Time will tell how long this can last.

So that would leave Obama as sweater-vest himself, Jim Tressel. True, Obama is rather more glamorous than the sweater-vest. But, as a (Democratic) PSU-minded friend reminds me, Obama is as unflappable as Tressel and, by recanting his prior commitment to public-financing, just as ruthless and prepared to do what - and whatever - it takes to win. And, I suppose, if conservative paranoia about ACORN has anything to it then this might not be so very different, in effect, from tOSU's recruiting policy...

A Michigan friend, however, reminds me that Columbus itself  is "Ground Zero for McCain supporters - ignorant, uneducated, obese, meat-head, crew-cut, jeans-short and tanktop wearing, meth-using, racist, redneck, Palin-lovers..." On the other hand, and to confuse matters still further, my own trip to Happy Valley found the place less than well-stocked with Sartre-reading, chablis-sipping, latte-drinking, arugula-munching, pesto-making pinko traitors.

Still, my bet is that Tresselball will prevail, outsmarting PSU with Terrelle Prior Terrell Pryor* and Beanie Wells carving up the Nittany Lions.

How much, if anything, this can tell us anything useful about the election is a different matter altogether. Sometimes sporting analogies aren't as useful as you need them to be.

My Culture11 piece on college football can be found here.

UPDATE: Wolverine alum Jon Chait, disputes some of this:

John McCain is obviously Joe Paterno. Penn State right now is the McCain campaign circa September 2. By next year (the equivalent of October in campaign terms) they'll be mediocre again.

Other problems with the Tressell-Obama parallel, besides that it makes me want to puke: Tressell is extremely conservative, in his political views, socio-cultural style, and style of football -- the opposite of Obama. He's wildly uncool, a professed Celine Dione fan. He said he knows the words to all her songs.

I think, unsurprisingly, that Obama is the parallel of Rich Rodriguez. Brilliant, innovative figure, hated for his rapid rise and willingness to discard old allies on his way up. Michigan right now is the Obama campaign circa last fall, or this last summer -- fans are panicked, fearing they're trying to change too much too fast, imploring the coach/candidate to revert to more conventional tactics, but the coach/candidate is confident the new course will succeed in the end with some patience.

UPDATE2: Northwestern Wildcat Matt Zeitlin explains why this game matters in Evanston too. He demonstrates the smarts needed to get to Northwestern by labelling his optimism "Cautious".

*Misspelling corrected. Thanks to commenter Adam01!

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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