Barack Obama faced a challenge. With more than eighty thousand people surrounding him in Invesco Field at Mile High and millions more on television and the internet, Obama had expectations riding on his back in a way more familiar to John Elway than to a politician.
But even putting aside the question of priorities in an America that often gives more reverence to a quarterback than a President, we are still left with a question we can relate to football. Did he lead the Democrats to a touchdown?
In this age of demagoguery, there will be pundits in the morning who want you to believe that his campaign hinged on this night… at least until their next deadline. But they are wrong. This was not the fourth quarter.
This was an opening drive.
And on an opening drive, quarterback and candidate Obama did what he needed to do. He did what a good team (because Obama has always known he is only one part of America's team) does… He drove down the field and scored. He didn't throw up a bomb on the first play. He went to the ground game…he hammered out first downs. He pushed downfield, mixed it up and put the defense on their heels.
He took up the mantle of Roosevelt and Kennedy and he resisted what must have been an almost overwhelming temptation to turn this into a night all about him and his connection with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That would have been the vertical game, the long bomb.
Barack got into the huddle and he called a run on history around end for eleven yards, tossed a screen pass on national security for sixteen yards, hammered George W. Bush with a run off tackle for eight. And on that play, eight was enough.
Health care for twenty, gay rights for fifteen, specifics on taxes for thirty. This was not what some expected. This was not lightning. This was the trenches. This was where the lineman do the real work that lets the skill players get all the glory.
Offense sells tickets. But you win championships in the trenches.