Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Very Sad Lesson in Sports vs Politics

It was a Saturday night and both The Eldest Boy and The Girl were at friends’ homes for sleepovers. The Spouse and I decided to take The Youngest Boy out to dinner at a place where not only would he eat the food without complaining, but where the grown-ups could imbibe quality, adult beverages. Our restaurant choice: John Harvard’s Brew House. (Their Harvest Spice beer, with the sugar and cinnamon coating the edge of the glass, was fabulous.)

Image credit: AFP
We were having fun, chitchatting about various topics when we stumbled upon an odd quandary: Which person is more well known, Lionel Messi or Hillary Clinton?

My 10-year-old insisted that it was Messi, who plays soccer for the FC Barcelona team and the Argentine national squad. He’s considered by many to be the best soccer player in the world. Now I consider myself to be up on the latest news and I’d never before heard of Messi. The only reason my son knew who he was is because we have a Fifa World Cup video game that he likes to play.

Image credit: AFP
I can’t recall exactly how or why Clinton’s name came up, but I asserted that more people know who she is because not only was she the First Lady for eight years, but she was a U.S. Senator, almost won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 and is our current Secretary of State. There was no way, I maintained, that people wouldn’t know who she is. She’s been all over the world speaking for American interests for decades.

To get to the bottom of this, we ran a little test. Our twentysomething waiter – we estimated that he was around 22 to 24, give or take a few years – would be the test subject.

The Youngest Boy asked him if he knew who Leo Messi was. “You mean Lionel? He plays right forward for Barcelona,” the waiter quickly replied.

While I was pondering how to phrase the question about Clinton without tainting the result, The Spouse beat me to it asking, “Do you know who the Secretary of State is?”

Upon hearing this, the waiter’s hand went to his chin as he pondered. “Oh, I should know this. I should know this,” he muttered, his face starting to redden. After pausing for a few seconds he said, his voice brimming with uncertainty, “Martha Coakley?” referring to the current Massachusetts Attorney General, the one who ran for the U.S. Senate last year but lost to Scott Brown.

He was embarrassed when we told him the answer and then he slunk away from our table. It was then that The Spouse and I figured out that he was approximately between the ages of 10-12 when Hillary Clinton went from being First Lady to being a senator.

My son smiled smugly. I still say he’s wrong. At least I hope he’s wrong.

But that hope was short-lived when The Girl came home from school the other day and told me that one of her teachers thought that Deval Patrick was the mayor of Boston. Seriously. (For the record: Patrick is the governor of Massachusetts and Tom Menino is the mayor of Boston.)

Do we need some kind of massive civic education campaign?

UPDATE: The Youngest Boy wanted me to add his "voice" to this post verbatim. Here goes:

Hello people. This is The Youngest One speaking. Obviously, everybody knows that Lionel Messi is more popular because I have an update that proves it: First of all, half the people my age [10] don't even know who she is. And also, I spent my 25-minute afternoon recess asking people who knew who Lionel Messi is and who knew who Hillary Clinton is and less than, let's say, one-fifth of them knew who Hillary Clinton is and about four-and-three quarters know who Lionel Messi is so that proves my point. Ha!

Image credits: AFP and AFP.

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