Whether it was on Twitter during the Presidential debate or watching on TV after, words such as “not aggressive, “cool Barry”, “no passion”, “lack of fire” and “landslide for Romney” came fast and furious in describing this massacre.
And yes, it was a massacre.
The President didn’t come to play, was unprepared and failed to adjust in any way during the debate. Romney delivered boldly and beyond expectations. He was impressive.
It happens. Haven’t we all had bad moments or performances? It probably didn’t help that this massacre occurred on an important day for the President – his 20th marriage anniversary. It's hard to be at your best work-wise on such a special day.
As I was watching in the early morning hours, thoughts of another massacre were swirling in my mind. The year was 1985 and the day is appropriately called the “Memorial Day Massacre” – the first game of the NBA Basketball Finals between my beloved Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
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And the Celtics? They raised a huge red welt on the Lakers' scar from the previous year with an overwhelming 148-114 win that became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Scott Wedman hit all 11 of his shots from the floor, including four three-pointers. But it was Ainge who lashed the whip hardest, lacing in six straight buckets at the end of the first quarter to finish the period with 15 points.
"It was one of those days," Celtics coach K.C. Jones said, "where if you turn around and close your eyes, the ball's gonna go in."
As an avid basketball player and fan of the sport, Obama should be well aware of this lopsided game. On Wednesday night, Obama was Kareem Abdul Jabbar…..never quite finding his rhythm.
Romney performed like the Celtics on Wednesday evening. He was confident, strong and had a Gordon Gekko type Swagger. Like the Lakers, Obama was pummelled by the super energized Republican candidate. The debate wasn’t even close.
Fortunately for the President, this moment should serve as his wake-up call, just as it was for Kareem and the Lakers.
Kareem went out the next game like a man on fire with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks. The Lakers won game 2 by a score of 109-102. The Lakers took a stand and never looked back. And to my pure joy, we won game 6 in Boston and the NBA Championship!
I don’t think anyone doubts that Obama will come back with a focused strategy, much more intense and ready to do battle in the two remaining debates. He didn’t get to where he is by being passive and unwilling to fight.
The President had it easy in the 2008 debates against John McCain as all he had to do was show up; his rock star status made it tough for anyone to compete against him. Mitt Romney is a different bird (no PBS pun intended) as he proved himself to be a sharp and capable debater.
Like the Memorial Day Massacre, Obama’s poor performance could be a blessing in disguise. With a formidable and highly disciplined campaign team to help him, the Obama who everyone expected last week should reappear in round 2.
Romney will have to step up his debate game even higher in order to match an energized Obama. The confidence Romney has gained from his stellar night cannot be taken for granted or make him overconfident.
The President is in the driver’s seat as he still leads in the polls and should have incredible motivation. It’s his game to lose.
Obama’s Anniversary Day Massacre might just be the jolt he needed to finish the campaign forcefully and secure his re-election. If not, Romney will credit last Wednesday night as his “Moment of Truth” in becoming the 45th President of the United States.
Happy Gswede Sunday!