January 14th, 2012
09:12 AM ET

Letters to the President #1090: 'Playing until the end'

Reporter's Note: Every single day, I write to President Obama. He has yet to write back. But one time he passed in a motorcade and I thought I saw him kind of nod in my direction.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, here we are with the Saints in another playoff game, and of course I am on pins and needles. Actually, I am on the sofa, but you understand.

They are looking magnificent. Drew Brees is playing quarterback like he invented the position. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are running like men possessed. Marques Colston is magnificent. The whole team is simply playing so much like it did during their great Super Bowl run, that it is not unreasonable for us fans to get our hopes up.

But being a Saints fan has taught me humility. I remember all the bad years. And I remind myself that on any given day, in any given game, any team…any team…might beat another. So I will watch, cheer, and hope for the best. But I won’t celebrate until the final score is posted.

That is a worthwhile lesson for politicians, too, especially…to be frank…one like you who has never really suffered a major setback. As you burn into this coming year’s election, you can expect to get some of your mojo back. It just happens. The fundraising is already going well, and you’ll start visiting with bigger, more energetic crowds.

Democrats, who are pretty demoralized at the moment, will start rallying to your side, even if many are driven primarily by a dislike of the Republicans. You’ll battle through a debate or two, and Bob’s your uncle, there is a good chance that within a few months you might start thinking that you’re roaring toward the finish like you were four years ago.

And maybe you will be. Then again, maybe not.

How you think about your position could prove critically important at that time. Do you play like it you are winning, or do you play as if you are losing? I always argue in favor of the latter and I’d advise any president to lean that way. Because there may be nothing more dangerous in a competitive situation than thinking you have the victory in your grasp.

Remember, not until the last vote is counted, can you really say you have won. No, if I were you, I’d put a big copy of the Dewey Defeats Truman photo on my desk and remember to play right down to the wire, even if you think you’re about to walk off with prize again.

As for me, I’m going to settle in for the game and just watch. The 49ers are a good team. I think my Saints are better. I just hope they are this afternoon.