We were first introduced to the Governor of Alaska with her description of herself as a "hockey mom." This endearing appellation was intended, we suppose, to show Sarah Palin in a favorable light, as someone who would arise at 4 am to make sure her children were able to get ice time at the local rink as they played the national game of nearby Canada. (You can see Canada from Alaska.) We have learned in the interim that there is a dark side to the hockey mom descriptor, especially as it concerns the Republican Vice Presidential nominee. Sarah Palin is a hockey mom, and that is not a compliment.
Hockey, however, is a wonderful sport. When played on a rink of ice by grown adolescents, the game combines skating, dexterity and skill. It is fast and acrobatic, but often features a pronounced subtext of violence. Not as dangerous to participants as football because the slippery ice surface inhibits traction, the game has had its share of criminal incidents, some of which were actually prosecuted. Many fans of the game come seeking blood.
Hockey moms, like their counterparts in soccer, are often devoted mothers in real life. When their children take the ice, however, hockey moms have been known to turn ugly. "Kill 'em" cries fill the rink as fights break out. This is not merely victory at any cost; it is victory with a price to be paid by the defeated opponent.
There is no evidence yet uncovered that the Governor was the kind of hockey mom who sought blood as well as wholesome activity for her children. We have learned, however, just how she campaigns as a hockey mom. Before partisan crowds apparently oblivious to any sense of propriety, Sarah Palin calls out for blood to be visited upon her terrorist opponents, most particularly, upon Senator Barack Obama. She has incited a cadre of miscreants to scream for his head. She has turned the campaign into a hockey brawl.
Most recently, we have learned about the Governor's Nixonian trait of using official power to punish her personal enemies. It is not enough, apparently, to prevail during an official game. Her family's battle must be waged fiercely and without end or rules. The people of Alaska ultimately will pass judgment about whether her conduct represents the best of "The Last Frontier."
Perhaps this is all just partisan politics. Senator John McCain currently trails his opponent in the polls, and negative advertising has been part of the national scene since the days of the Founders. Yet, McCain has shown recently that he does have a bottom line of decency when his adherents risk converting partisanship into mayhem. The Hockey Mom, however, has yet to call a halt to incitement.
Thankfully, we have only a few weeks left of this seemingly endless campaign, assuming the game does not go into overtime like the 2000 election. Sarah Palin will go back to Juneau or Anchorage -- or more likely to Wasilla -- to prepare for her next match. If she just sticks to hockey for her growing brood of youngsters, we will all be better off.