You may have heard that yesterday Sarah “Barracuda” Palin stepped down as governor of Alaska. It did bump the Michael Jackson drug rumors off the CNN lead.
I watched her press conference, which was pretty bizarre in general (though not quite “I was actually in Argentina banging my mistress” bizarre), but one point stuck out. About two minutes in (watch the video at the New York Times site), she explains her decision with a basketball metaphor.
I’ve played and followed basketball most of my life, so of course I was very interested in how the former high school roundball star would analogize. Here’s my transcription of what she said:
… a comfortable analogy for me, and that’s sports. Basketball. I use it because you are naïve if you don’t see a full court press from the national level picking away right now. A good point guard, here’s what she does, she drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And that’s what I’m doing. Keeping our eye on the ball. … And I know when it’s time to pass the ball for victory.
Sounds good, right? Eye on the basket. Pass the ball. Win.
Except, if you know anything about playing basketball, you know Palin’s metaphor makes no sense. First, she says she’s the point guard, and there’s a full court press. Every coach knows the best way to beat the press is to immediately pass the ball. Ideally, no one dribbles during a press break.
Palin, however, says her first focus as point guard and leader is to drive and “protect the ball,” which means, in layman’s terms, to dribble a whole bunch. Again, exactly what you shouldn’t do.
Then she says this metaphorical point guard needs to “keep her eye on the basket,” which means look to score, not to pass. If you apply this metaphor to reality (wherein our point guard is actually Governor Palin), so far she’s saying the hounds (liberal establishment/media) are after her and are hurting Alaska in the process, and to get through this confrontation, she’s going to “keep her eye on the basket,” or focus on herself. It’s about what’s best for Palin, not what’s best for Alaska.
But then she makes a sudden 180 and says in the same sentence that this point guard “knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win.” But eyeing the basket and looking to pass are diametrically opposed functions. So, is this point guard focused only on herself, or is she doing this for those around her, putting team above self?
The last bit of the metaphor — “And that’s what I’m doing. Keeping our eye on the ball.” — is almost gibberish, slipping between first person singular and first person plural. Again, Palin can’t decide if this move is for her or if it’s for the state.
I would imagine her intention was a bit of self-martyrdom, sacrificing her governorship to spare Alaska the cost of defending the mounting inquiries into her doings in office. And her metaphor is a classic attempt at saying very little while saying a lot. But, when you actually examine what she said, it appears the ball-dominating point guard, Sarah “Barracuda,” subconsciously made herself known.