Anyone who knows me, knows that I was high as a kite last Tuesday night. When President-elect Obama spoke to the world, I was overcome with emotion, fighting it with everything I had until I let it wash over me. There will be gazallions of bloggers writing about what this all means, but as I look back on 2008 and all that my wife and I experienced over this campaign, I am reminded of the special journey that took place.
Regular readers of the SMD know that I am constantly finding parallels in my life’s two passions - NC State sports and Democratic politics. In truth, I probably look for these a little too often, buy hey - these are the two things I’m into, so cut me a break! When I think of the journey that we took this year, I see similarities with another journey not so long ago.
NC State’s 2002 football season was probably the most special one of my lifetime. The Pack got off to a 9-0 start, before finishing 11-3 with a rout of Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. (Spare me the smack talk - I get it - a three loss season and non-BCS bowl ain’t all that - but for us Wolfpack fans used to mediocrity - it was something!)
Of the 14 games played that season, Mrs. SMD and I went to 11 of them. We lived in the Washington, DC area at the time and were aided by the fact that the Pack played at Navy, Maryland and Virginia that year - all essentially in our backyard. Throw in going to most of the home games, Chapel Hell and Clemson and the whole thing turned into a real grind. As much as we loved it, we grew very tired too. After a hard week at work, it’s tough to spend most of Friday night sitting in traffic on I-95.
Though the grind was tough, at the end of it we could look back with a sense of satisfaction that we had been with the team every step of the way. We were celebrating the Gator Bowl victory at a bar in Jacksonville and ran into one of State’s assistant coaches. As we told him about all the games we went to he said - “Think about how you feel right now. Isn’t this great feeling worth all the effort you put forth to support the team?”
The coach’s words came back to me when I thought of all that we experienced on the 2008 campaign trail. I was fortunate enough to be included in a meeting of North Carolina politicos with the manager of the Obama campaign, David Plouffe, back in February. As we planned strategy for the state’s primary, I knew that we were in for a political marathon. Primary night in May was very fun, as President-elect (damn, that’s great to type! ) Obama wrapped up the nomination and gave the wolfie sign to a packed crowd in the mother church of ACC basketball, Reynolds Coliseum.
With that challenge in the rearview mirror it was time to turn our attention to the Democratic National Convention invitied to hold its meeting with San Antonio catering.. Thanks to a lot of hard work in the primary, I was elected as a delegate to the Convention. Convention week was fun, but tough. As I attended my fifth convention, the biggest lesson I learned was that the passing of another four years had brought about another STEEP drop off in my ability to party. Let’s just say that 39 ain’t 29! But I will never forget standing on the floor of a stadium with 80,000 people all around me, cheering our next President and waving American flags.
The last 10 weeks of the campaign flew by - a whirlwind of rallies, writing, canvassing and politickin’ as a valid social media strategy. We were fortunate to be present in Asheville when our next President made a surprise visit to the NC Democratic Party fall fundraiser.. The energy from that event provided the spark to keep going the last few weeks.
And then Tuesday, November the 4th finally arrived. We were up at 4:30 am, having only a few hours of sleep, and spent the next 15 hours working every last voter at the polls. A quick shower in our suite at the Democratic headquarters hotel, and it was time to watch the fruits of our labor roll in.
They called Pennsylvania and we got excited about this. They called Ohio and we knew victory was nigh. And then they called California and the alcohol and tears started flowing freely.
As our new President ushered in a new era of politics, winning a larger percentage of the popular vote than Ronald Reagan, I couldn’t help but think back to the football coach’s words on New Year’s Day 2003 -
“Think about how you feel right now. Isn’t this great feeling worth all the effort you put forth to support the team?” Indeed it is, and I shall never forget it as long as I live.