Nine years ago this morning, baseball fans woke up bleary-eyed from watching one of the most dramatic World Series games in history. This being 2020, last night's match-up didn't offer comparable Game 6 drama -- at least not on the playing field during the game -- but it did produce a worthy champion in the talented, close-knit Los Angeles Dodgers.
As if to punctuate my point about 2020, the end of Major League Baseball's season last night was marred by two self-inflicted blunders, which may be the theme of this year writ large. The first was the unfathomable decision by the Tampa Bay Rays manager to remove lefthanded pitcher Blake Snell in the 6th inning even though his ace was pitching a World Series game for the ages. The baseball gods were offended: The Rays bullpen immediately coughed up the lead.
Then, in the 8th inning, the Dodgers pulled star third baseman Justin Turner from the game after learning from the league laboratory that he'd tested positive for COVID-19. Was the test accurate? Who knows. And why its results weren't delivered earlier in the day is another mystery. Strangest of all, Turner then celebrated on the field after the game with his teammates, at one point removing his mask.
"Turner's test," wrote CBS's Matt Snyder, "was a jarring way to end what was possibly the weirdest season in baseball history."
He had played so well that I thought Turner might be named the Series MVP. The award went to another deserving player, Dodgers' shortstop Corey Seager, who said after the game that he would trade places with Turner if he could. The esprit de corps of the winning team was impressive. The Dodgers have the best roster in baseball, and the off-season addition of Mookie Betts helped them develop terrific chemistry, too. It's a hard combination to beat.
A willingness to share credit doesn't always come naturally to athletes -- or politicians. It's a trait that must be nurtured, sometimes with comical exaggeration, but it's the right instinct.
Hagiography and boasting, the former's equally unattractive first cousin, are all the rage in modern politics. But it's rarely the right way to write about history or the most effective way to demonstrate leadership, as events 58 years ago reveal.
On this date in 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove nuclear arms from Cuba, ending the 13-day standoff that had put the world, in John F. Kennedy's phrase, at "the abyss of destruction."
"We were eyeball to eyeball and the other guy blinked" was how Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it. But that's not really what happened. In this instance, the tendency of Kennedy's aides to encourage hero worship of their boss simultaneously glorified JFK and short-changed him.
In truth, the young U.S. president had engaged in hard bargaining with his Soviet counterpart, negotiations that produced two necessary concessions from the American side. First, the United States officially promised not to invade Cuba. This was mostly a face-saving device that Khrushchev designed for Fidel Castro's benefit (but did not mollify the Cuban leader). Second, the Kennedy administration agreed to remove Jupiter nuclear missiles from U.S. bases in Turkey.
It's all well and good for a president's advisers to build him up, but in his book "When Presidents Lie," Eric Alterman teases out the Cuban Missile Crisis theme further. He concludes that the one-dimensional image of a commander-in-chief with such cool-headed machismo was one of the factors that led Lyndon Johnson to escalate the war in Vietnam: LBJ wanted to show Bobby Kennedy that he could be as tough as RFK's martyred brother.
A more balanced view of President Kennedy's actions during the Thirteen Days, in other words, would have done his memory a greater service -- and left an easier act for his successors to follow.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.