Anyone that is a sports fan is familiar with the following scenario. There is a team that is ahead in the standings on the last day of season and all they need to make it into the playoffs is for some other team to lose. Their fate lies in someone else’s hands. So they sit around in their locker room or someone’s living room, watching some other teams play, with the champagne on ice. That’s not the situation that Obama faces today, but it has some similarities. The polls will close in Kentucky and Team Obama will be watching the returns come in on television. At some point it will become obvious that, although he has lost the contest badly, he has gained enough delegates to make it to the next level. This is called ‘backing your way into playoffs’.

Under ordinary circumstances, Team Obama would be justified, just as sports teams are, in popping the corks and spraying champagne all over each other in some kind of Dionysian ritual of ecstasy. But that is not going to happen for two reasons. First, they want to be mindful of Team Clinton’s feelings:

[Obama’s] aides insist that he is mindful of doing nothing to suggest impatience with Clinton or to signal that she should end her candidacy before she is ready…

…Obama is favored to win the Oregon primary today, and Clinton is an even stronger favorite to win the Kentucky contest. But Obama will not celebrate primary night in either of those states. Instead, he has chosen to be in Iowa, where his victory in the caucuses in January turned the Democratic race upside down. There, at a rally in Des Moines, he is expected to declare that he has secured a majority of the pledged delegates currently eligible to attend August’s Democratic convention in Denver.

Obama and his advisers insist the event will stop short of a declaration that he has won the nomination. But it will be seen as another signal to superdelegates to climb aboard his bandwagon as quickly as possible.

The celebration, however, has rankled the Clinton campaign and the candidate herself. They see it as a highhanded effort to embarrass her and to generate renewed calls from others in the party for her to quit the race before anyone has achieved a genuine majority of pledged delegates and superdelegates.

So, the first reason Team Obama will not be popping corks is that Team Clinton doesn’t want to be embarrassed. You could call this ‘sportsmanship’, I guess. The second reason for the subdued celebration is that the nominating rules are different from the rules for sports teams looking to make the playoffs.

It’s as if the Chicago White Sox beat out the Cleveland Indians for the American League Central Division crown by winning several more games during the regular season. But then they had to rely on a bunch of baseball and television executives to ratify their victory before they would be allowed into the playoffs. Maybe the Indians have a Cy Young Award winning pitcher and the Home Run champion, and they are assured of bringing in better ratings than the scrappy bunch of underdogs on the White Sox squad that win by playing together as a team.

That’s the type of situation Obama faces tonight. Even before the polls close in Oregon, Obama will have won the most pledged delegates. In other words, in the part of the contest where voters vote (games are played), he will have won according to the rules. All that will remain to be seen is if the rules will be changed after the season and/or if the executives will simply toss out the results in the interest of potentially better ratings (poll numbers).

The Clintons and their supporters have been making all kinds of arguments about how unfair the process has been. But let’s focus on how unfair it would be for the Cleveland Indians to go to the playoffs despite losing their division to the Chicago White Sox, on the mere theory that the Indians would get better ratings. Imagine the scene where the White Sox are forced to tone down their season ending celebration because they’re worried that too much celebration would be presumptuous given the executives’ prerogative to strip them of their accomplishments and deny them the fruits of the victory.

Even further, imagine if the Indians and their fans were making the following argument:

‘We would have won if not for the games we had to play against National League teams. If you don’t count those games, and let’s face it, interleague play is stupid and undemocratic, and you add our spring training games to the standings, then we would be ahead if you don’t count that game in August against the Yankees where we only lost because of a bad call by the third-base umpire.’

That’s pretty much the level of idiocy the Clintons are using to insult our intelligence. And they are claiming it’s all in the interest of fairness and democracy, which is enough to make one’s head explode.

So, here’s to the South Side of Chicago and Barack Obama. Go White Sox!! I know they’ll sweep those Arizona Diamondbacks in 4 games. That is, if no one steps in and fudges with the rules.

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