There was a discussion on the radio today while I was in the car about an ad that a pro-life group wants to run during The Super Bowl. The ad involves Tim Tebow and his mom, who was apparently encouraged to get an abortion when she was pregnant with him while doing missionary work in, I think, the Philippines. If my facts aren’t 100 percent correct here, forgive me, I’m going off what I heard on the radio.
Obviously Tim’s mom didn’t get an abortion and the baby turned out to be Tim Tebow and the world is a better place as a result. Not surprisingly, several pro-choice groups are upset about the ad and are urging CBS to refuse to run it. This is going to be a hotly debated issue regardless of what CBS decides.
To me, there’s no issue here: The first amendment guarantees a pro-life group can run an ad like this as long as it doesn’t libel anyone in the ad or perpetrate some kind of fraud. If the ad says that Tim Tebow’s mom chose not to have an abortion and in the opinion of those paying the $2.5 million for the 30 seconds, this is proof that pro-life is the right way to go, there’s not a single reason not to run it.
There would also be no reason not to run an ad paid for by pro-choice advocates that brought forward the mother of a convicted murderer to say that she wanted an abortion when she was pregnant but couldn’t get one or couldn’t afford one and this is proof that Roe v. Wade needs to be broadened or there needs to be more funding for unwanted pregnancies.
Where do you draw the line? Well, if the Klu Klux Klan wanted to take an ad saying that the white race was superior to all others, that ad should be rejected not so much because it is offensive but because there isn’t a shred of evidence to support what the Klan would be claiming is fact.
All of this gets into the two areas where you can’t win an argument: politics and religion. Every time I catch myself getting into a political argument—which I do every single Tuesday at the Red Auerbach lunch with Chris Wallace who might be less conservative than Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh but not by much—I say to myself, ‘why are you wasting your breath?’
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve argued with people on the issue of gun control and the one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: I have never changed one person’s mind nor has anyone ever changed my mind. On certain issues, probably most issues, we are all so ingrained in the way we think it is almost impossible to make any of us change. Why do you think the smallest percentage of voters in any election are those who are undecided? Most of the time about 90 percent of the electorate has made up its mind—at least in general elections—before a single dollar is spent on a campaign.
Think about it: How many of you switched from Obama to McCain or vice-versa after the conventions last year? Of course the reason so much money is spent on campaigns is that in a close election the 10 or 12 percent that are undecided will decide the election. That’s why The Supreme Court’s decision last week to do away with any limits on campaign financing for corporations is so dangerous. It may mean that corporate America’s dollars will make the difference in many close elections in the future. And don’t—as Wallace tried to claim today—tell me that union money will balance corporate money. That ship sailed years ago (Wallace even semi-conceded the point before the egg rolls had been served while still insisting I was an idiot).
Abortion is not an issue where anyone changes their mind. That’s why, even though I will defend the right of the pro-life group to buy the ad during The Super Bowl, I honestly believe they are wasting their money. Maybe—MAYBE—the ad might convince a few pregnant teen-agers to think twice about an abortion and maybe that is its purpose. But it certainly won’t change the politics of the abortion issue one tiny bit.
That being said, the pro-choice groups are playing right into the pro-life’s group’s hands by demanding that CBS reject the ad. Would anyone have been talking about the ad today if not for the demand that it be turned down? No. Everyone would have been trying to decide when Brett Favre was going to announce his next retirement or un-retirement. Instead, this is now a story and it will continue to be a story and, as a result, the ad will get about 50 times more attention than it would have if the pro-choice groups had kept their mouths shut. Sometimes the best way to win an argument is just to be quiet. (Okay, you can make the case that’s a lesson I’ve never learned)
I feel sorry for CBS on this one. If the network turns down the ad it will catch hell from the right. If it runs the ad it will catch hell from the left.
I have always taken the position that I wish athletes would leave religion out of sports. I don’t like it when athletes claim that God somehow played a role in a victory and I would rather not see them putting biblical passages on their eye black. That said, I think they have an absolute right to do it until and unless someone passes a rule that says NOTHING can be written on your eye black. Of course a very strong case can be made that if you can’t write on your eye black why should players be allowed to display tattoos that have writing on them? Good question.
There’s always been a part of me that wishes athletes would be more politically active. The problem with that is simple: About 95 percent of them care about one issue: money. Their only question is, “which candidate is going to lower my taxes the most?”
When I was writing “Living on the Black,” (which has nothing to do with eye black) a couple of years ago both main subjects, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, had been very active baseball union members. In fact, Glavine had been one of THE union leaders during the 1994-1995 strike.
He and Stan Kasten, then the president of the Braves, spent hours screaming at one another about baseball politics even though the two of them are now friends. When I was working on the book, Kasten said to me one day, “Why don’t you ask Tommy how he can be so pro-union, so pro-workers rights and so Republican all at the same time?”
I repeated the question to Glavine who smiled and said, “He makes a good point.”
Perhaps that’s true but the question didn’t change Glavine’s view of the world one bit. In fact, when he and his wife Chris adopted a baby last summer I got a note from Glavine: “The world’s newest Republican has arrived.”
Fortunately for me this was shortly after Arlen Specter had changed parties so I wrote back: “I guess that evens things up for Arlen Specter.”
And the debates—without resolution—roll on and on.
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