A night with Sherrod Brown

I ditched the Cavaliers-Hawks game early last night and headed to Sherrod Brown's victory rally, hoping there would be more drama and intrigue in a hotly contested Senate race than a basketball contest involving the Hawks, who I believe are a CYO team from South Yemen. Turns out the Hawks had more fight than the Republicans. By the time my cab dropped me off at the convention center, the Hawks were on their way to an overtime win, and most of the country's the Republicans were posting their resumes on Monstor.com. Objective: to obtain a position like that one Abramoff guy, where people give lots of cash and I get to mess with some Indians. (My cab driver's new assessment for the political scene: "Which way will they fuck us now?") When I arrived inside the cavernous convention center, there was a rousing game of Dodge the Wonk in progress. If you've never played, the objective is to get from the bar to the trail mix and back as many times as possible, without — and here's the key — getting trapped in conversation with a political dork, usually identified by several Take Back Ohio pins and a funny hat. Turns out wonks are impervious to one simple tactic, which I employed each time someone approached mumbling about a House race in southern Missouri. "I'm just here for the Bud Light," I would say, smiling, before sprinting toward the trail mix. Worked every time. Eventually, the important people arrived, and I remembered why I came in the first place. Although Brown's race wasn't close, these important people — elected officials, campaign staff, family -- had spent the last year, at least, pouring every ounce of themselves into winning. This is not an easy thing to do when there's a damn good chance you might, well, lose. So even though they won in a romp, the relief and joy and exhaustion in the place would be on endless tap, I knew. And that, I figured, would be fun to watch. It was. As Brown's staff gathered in a corner, they at first looked nervous, as if the race, which had long been called, might go on for another month. But when Mike DeWine (R-Check Ya Later) suddenly appeared on the big-screen, defeat beading up on his face, the staffers' faces went white. It was over. One young woman, a Brown fundraiser, buried her tearing eyes in her hands — just at the site of DeWine. When Brown did take the stage, and the confetti flew, his family — wife Connie Schultz, mom, kids, siblings, and a somewhat out-of-place black dude — joined him. Schultz wasn't so much choking back tears as she was blinking them out one at a time, rationing them as her husband promised the hollering masses that life would get better. But the kids' faces said it best. They were kind of blank. Joy and pride and the rest would come later, it seemed, when this guy of theirs — dad, step-dad, dad-in-law, uncle — started getting introduced as U.S. Senator. But for the moment, they simply seemed relieved. Relieved that the whole damn thing was over. Relieved that they didn't have to hold their breath every time Grey's Anatomy went to commercial, wondering what they might hear about their guy. Relieved not so much that he their guy had won, but that, Thank God, he didn't lose. --Joe P. Tone
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