Here’s to bucking the prevailing wisdom

Posted July 10, 2009, at 6:49 p.m.

When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin caught television’s chattering class by surprise in announcing on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday that she would soon abdicate her gubernatorial throne in favor of trying some other line of work yet to be revealed, the pundits seemed personally offended.

Not because of Palin’s you-betcha-by-golly brand of politics that many love to disparage. And not because she was quitting a job that the voters of Alaska had elected her to do, although there was plenty of carping about that aspect of the deal.

Rather, television’s talking heads seemed put out because of Palin’s violation of the unwritten law in politics and media that if such an announcement is to attract any significant news coverage it must not be made late on a Friday afternoon preceding a long holiday weekend. Especially not on a weekend when the national news media remain obsessed with continuing their bizarre wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson, the weird and troubled self-proclaimed King of Pop.

When a politician calls a Friday afternoon press conference it often is an indication that he or she is trying to fly under the radar for some reason, hoping the event will get lost in the shuffle when the news media’s guard is down.

Since one couldn’t picture the politically ambitious Alaska governor playing that game, the pundits suggested that Palin’s atrocious timing and her thumbing her nose at convention showed how dumb the lady could be in such matters. Rotsa ruck to her if she thought her eleventh-hour weekend announcement might somehow deter the news media from their all-Michael-Jackson-all-the-time assault on the senses.

But even as the talking heads pontificated, television had begun to flog the Palin story to death in a full-court press to rival the Jackson story overkill. So much for the prevailing wisdom that Palin had chosen the “wrong” time to announce her decision, media coveragewise. So much, as well, for the Alaska governor’s alleged naivete when it comes to getting her message out, loud and clear from the Alaskan hinterland. If the lady is dumb about such things, she seems dumb like a fox.

The incident served to support a suspicion that society has become so used to accepting the so-called prevailing wisdom in any given situation that few of us dare think outside the box, lest we be labeled hopeless dreamers and shunned by conventionalists.

The reluctance to buck convention occurs in most any profession you would care to mention, although many examples can be found in sports. The football coach with no imagination who never sends in a trick play and the golfer who lays up short of the frog pond hazard may be successful in their conventionality. But they sure can be boring.

As can the Major League Baseball team manager who orders a bunt or an attempted steal only in predictable situations — as in when everyone in the ballpark knows it’s coming.

Rarely will you see managers have a hitter with two strikes on him lay down a bunt, no matter how talented he is with the bat, lest he foul off the pitch and make an out. But logic would seem to dictate that a skilled bunter thinking outside the batter’s box should be able to lay one down with two strikes on him as well as he can with any other count.

In their allegiance to statistical odds and convention, a lot of managers go to great lengths to avoid certain matchups with the opposing team, based on which side of the plate the hitter bats from and from which side of the pitching mound the pitcher throws.

Like the prevailing wisdom that says Sarah Palin can’t make her big announcement late on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend and expect to get any press coverage, this is so much hooey designed to hornswoggle us into believing the experts know more than they actually do.

I say that if a hitter can hit, he can hit, and if a pitcher can pitch, he can pitch. Forget the left-right histrionics. Play ball. I also offer the disclaimer that I am not a big league manager, nor do I play one on television, and you can probably see why.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

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