You don’t grow up Texan without football and mother’s admonition that no respectable man will want you unless you know the official’s hand signals.  A decade later I was the only person in the stands at high school quarterfinals who understood the signals and the game – not that many people show up for the all-state quarterfinals in Vermont.

For sports fans nationwide, George Allen’s new book What Washington can Learn from the World of Sports is as entertaining and amusing as a Texan .  Allen could have written a book about his father, the legendary coach.  He could have written a book about football, so keen is his lifetime interest.  And the popular former Governor and former Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia could have written several books about just politics.

Instead he took a risk and cleverly wove family history and sports book into a witty and fast-read summer tome, reminding anyone readers that politics has much to learn from the values inculcated through sports in generations of Americans, mostly boys, about morality, team work, individualism, ethics, spirit, and all the other seemingly trite values we once universally held dear. Was it a simpler time or a wiser time? 

The home field advantage of the 1987 and 1991 champions the Minnesota Twins may be sports legend, but former Governor Allen reminds us that home field advantage is an important tenant of politics too.  He could have quoted University of Virginia’s favorite pol Thomas Jefferson, but instead he uses an example some of us are partial to – “Don’t Mess with Texas.”  Washington, listen up, back off.  The smallest, closest government to the people governs best.

 Coincidentally, as I read this chapter, the US Justice Department sued Arizona for enacting a popular immigration law.  Many of Allen’s chapter headings are amusing, but try the quote from “A tie is like kissing your sister:”

Human nature shows that people will not strive as long, work as hard, study as diligently, innovate as readily, risk as freely, care as passionately, sacrifice as willingly, or produce as much if they know that, in the end, the fruits or rewards or honors or acclaim will be re-distributed evenly to others.

What an apt explanation for the U.S. Southwestern states, overrun by illegal immigrants who pay no taxes and are allowed to enjoy all the benefits of citizenship, while Washington looks on without enforcing the law. 

The book begs for a few quotes in conflict or in sync with Allen’s statements, but one has to appreciate the quick logic and pace.  Rightfully, this book will endure with our favorite 17-year old , who may not have been raised with football but who can hold her own on an ATV and loves the woods as much as her grandfather my husband.   High schools abundantly integrate sports with life, so she will understand in a way many of us have forgotten – and should remember.   Allen’s ability to explain fairness from the perspective of sports encourages all of us to look at the rule of law and the rule of tyranny with fresh eyes as we fight for one and defend against the other.