Bush, as described by Trillin: tennis player in a wrestling match

“Jeb Bush’s Campaign as Sports Metaphor,” by Calvin Trillin of the Nation. Published on February 25, 2016.

Calvin Trillin’s article, “Jeb Bush’s Campaign as Sports Metaphor (2016),” asserts that Jeb Bush did not hold the rugged strength and mindset to be successful on the campaign trail. Trillin develops this argument by concisely introducing the idea of Jeb Bush as a peaceful tennis player competing against other athletes, who actually happen to be wrestlers. Trillin’s purpose is to use Bush’s recent drop-out as an example of why he wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the presidency. Because of its sharp criticism, Trillin’s audience is assumed to be directly Bush, but also politics-engaged readers.

In one 6-5-6-5 stanza, Trillin is able to invoke a tone of criticism. First, it is important to identify that as a result of the title, in which Bush’s name is stated, that Trillin is talking directly to the presidential candidate. In this first line, Trillin begins his metaphor by describing Bush as a tennis-player, which can carry several connotations. Such descriptors may include an upper-class, country-club tennis player, expecting to win the match. This image will most likely trigger a sense of disgust in the reader. But, as told by the second line, Bush “came up short.” This phrase, which is commonly used in the sports realm, adds to the effect of analogizing the loss of a party nomination as a loss of a sporting event. Trillin uniquely describes the 2016 Presidential Election as a “wrestling match;” if you do not have the proper mental and physical strength to combat the punches and kicks from other candidates (ahem, Donald Trump), you will not come out of the ring without bruises and a loss.

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3 thoughts on “Bush, as described by Trillin: tennis player in a wrestling match

  1. Harrison,
    You did a good job analyzing such a small poem of 4 lines. While less intense than wrestlers, I’ve never thought of tennis as a peaceful sport, since so many players grunt loudly when putting all their force into a shot or chunk their rackets to the ground when upset about a loss. However, when looking at as wrestling as a contact sport and tennis as a non-contact sport that contrast makes sense.


  2. Hi Harrison,
    Trillin’s subtle humor is always delightful. In so few words, his image of a tennis player juxtaposed with blood sports creates an interesting commentary on the civility of the presidential race. Do you think that these candidates are particularly insouciant or have we forgotten the bitterness of previous elections?


  3. Pingback: Monthly Pundit Project: Calvin Trillin | Harrison's World of Lang

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