This past weekend was the NBA All-Star Game. It is a time when basketball fans “oooh” and “ahhhh” over 3-point shoot-outs, slam dunk competitions and a myriad of other activities that are ostensibly for “the fans.”
Really, though, the weekend is nothing more than pocket-lining event for league owners. It provides the NBA players with a cash incentive that amounts to cab fare given their inflated salaries.
Some of the more interesting aspects of the weekend, however, are the highlighted “team” contests that include the rookies vs. second-year players game, the old-timers game and, of course, the NBA All-Star Game itself. This had me thinking: It seems we have some of these type games taking place in Nashville, with politicians acting like NBA owners or coaches assembling their rosters.
Lately, the “all-stars” of Mayor Karl Dean and Gov. Bill Haslam have gone on a spree of raiding the political “old-timers” league to bolster their teams, while Speaker of the House Beth Harwell seems to be picking off members of the rookies and second-year players card to add to her roster.
No offense to the “old-timers” mentioned in this article. But when you are on your second or third tour of duty for these purposes, you are an “old-timer,” no matter how much you want to hide your AARP card.
Dean has brought on former Bredesen staffers like Jim Fyke and Tam Gordon and is rumored to be on the verge of adding Gerald Nicely and a few more Bred-Exers. The signing of Fyke and Gordon created a bit of a stir with charges of cronyism, especially when their salaries became public. But Deaniacs have pushed back, saying the new hires are of all-star quality.
In Haslam’s case, he built his team from scratch. While he had plenty of picks, it appears the first place he consulted when putting together his starting team was an old copy of the playbook Lamar Alexander used when he was governor. New hires with old ties — like Dept. Gov. Claude Ramsey and Legislative Director Dale Kelley — aren’t just old cats around the barn. They built the barn.
The core of Haslam’s team, though, doesn’t appear to be built for a lengthy run into the playoffs, but rather some quick wins to bolster the team before setting forth on a youth movement. There are already grumblings that a few of the old-timers have lost their jump shot and could be headed for the bench sooner than would otherwise be expected.
Going the opposite direction, and opting for a youth movement, is Harwell. Although she tapped former state Rep. Joe McCord to serve as her experienced power forward (i.e. chief clerk), Harwell went with a young roster overall — one that knows when the sharp elbows are coming but offers considerably less experience in the paint.
Players like Gregory Gleaves (chief of staff), Kara Watkins (deputy chief and press guru) and Brent Leatherwood (GOP Caucus spinmeister) have been on the court in the past but are now in a position similar to having been traded from the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers to a playoff contender.
What will be interesting over the course of the next year is how these rosters will shape up and deliver.
Dean is really the first of these politicians facing a shot clock. With his re-election bid underway, he already has a pesky defender’s hand in the face under the guise of Metro Councilman Michael Craddock. While Craddock doesn’t appear to have the legs to bring down Dean, he is more than capable of doing some damage that someone else could capitalize on.
The question is whether Dean will use the old-timers to bolster his defense and up his stats before the buzzer sounds on his first term. His weaknesses going into the tournament will come from the handling of the fairgrounds, grumblings over the convention center, the salaries of the old-timers, etc… His big positive will be his handling of the 2010 flood, but expect Craddock to flip that script.
Unlike Dean, Haslam and Harwell could and will combine their teams at times given their similar ideals, agenda and goals. The question that remains, though: Will they play like the Harlem Globetrotters or the Washington Generals?