There’s a lot that I could choose to write about right now. What can I say? It’s been an exciting week. The Badgers thrilling win could be a good topic. I’m sure none of you are sick of NFL talk yet. Cesaro and Sheamus stole the show at Clash of Champions, that’s deserving of some praise. Or I could push a good number of you away from this blog by talking about last night’s Presidential debate.
And, you know what? I’m going to talk about all of those things, specifically, the main theme that ties them all together.
I’m sure, by this point, you’re wondering why I decided to give this article this particular name. “HGE” you ask “it sure doesn’t seem like you’re talking about properties, and, in fact, I don’t ever recall you talking about this before so why on Earth would you need to continue”. Turns out, the guy in front of me in the coffee shop was looking at some PowerPoint and I couldn’t think of anything better.
If you haven’t closed the blog already, this is the part where I try to do something stylistically cool by tying the whole thing together. Just bear with me.
The reason you come into this piece expecting me to continue talking about properties is because of the expectations I’ve set for you from the title. Expectations, it turns out, are very important. Now this might go without saying for some of you, but considering I didn’t learn this lesson until I was 25 or something, I think it’s a topic worth discussing.
Let’s take the Badgers win on Saturday this past weekend. Badger fans – that was fucking awesome, right? We went into eighth ranked Michigan State and won, handily. It’s definitely one of my favorite Badger victories, right up there with our win against LSU earlier this season. And, in both cases, expectations were a HUGE part of that. Let’s look at the checklist for Michigan State, in particular:
- Everyone thinks the opponent is better
- Michigan State is ranked 8th
- The game is in East Lansing
- The team was not pegged to be this good in the preseason
Because of all that, the team was not expected to win this game and, beyond that, the team was not expected to win with such conviction. The Badgers came out and they absolutely kicked MSU’s head in. Let’s say UW is playing unranked Purdue on the road later this season. Nobody gets excited if we win. It barely moves the needly. Hell, much like the Packers this last Sunday, people will probably get mad if they don’t win by enough. Expectations are king. If the Browns win 31-24 with a fourth string QB, the city of Cleveland is literally doing fucking backflips in the street.
And, if you’ll let me divulge into politics, last night’s debate was another shining example of the point that I want to make. Before the debate, both camps each voiced their key concern about what would happen when the event actually unfolded. Donald Trump warned us that the fix was going to be in, that the debate would be unfair, and that moderators shouldn’t be fact checking live on TV. Hillary Clinton warned the public not to grade Donald Trump on a curve – he shouldn’t be perceived as being successful simply for standing up at a podium and showing the bare level of composure you’d respect from someone in a job interview for Target, much less being a presidential finalist.
And, judging from the fallout today, it appears both of them were very prescient. I’m not here to argue what’s fair and what isn’t, but Trump was asked 15 exclusive questions compared to 2 for Hillary and was interrupted seven times as often. He also got into a nasty debate in regards to a pair of facts that the moderator checked himself in real time. Trump expected this type of treatment from a member of the media because he’s brought it on himself. When you’re the lightning rod for media criticism, you’re going to get struck pretty often.
He was on the defensive all night, and he was made to look foolish several times by Hillary’s quips and on point answers. As one of my colleague’s aptly said in an email this morning “Hillary crushed him”. I couldn’t disagree, she was a step ahead of him most of the night.
However, that didn’t seem to matter a whole lot: Trump took the polls for the winner of the debate on Time, Fortune, CNBC, The Washington Times, and in an almost incomprehensible fashion given the previous voting record of its state, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Despite seemingly winning the debate, she was nearly clean swept, often-times in massive margins, in online polling. Granted, they might not be the best way to determine a winner, but unfortunately that’s the only data point we’ve got.
Which brings us back to the point of this whole article: the importance of expectations. See, both camps set expectations for the event, but the Clinton camp made a key mistake. Trump’s camp wanted us to have expectations that the debate was, for lack of a better words, rigged. This immediately sets the starting point right from question one. For a lot of viewers, this is the lens with which the debate will be seen. If things go well, Trump looks like a winner who overcame the political bigwigs he’s been rallying against. If things go south, Trump can immediately fall back on the excuse of “I told you it was rigged, I never stood a chance!”.
Now, there are a lot of situations where this isn’t going to work. Usually, you don’t get to overtly set expectations like this ahead of time. If you’re going on a date with someone, chances are they aren’t going to care if you warn them ahead of time that you’re boring and can’t kiss worth a damn. If you’re a football coach that tells your fans that you’re probably going to lose, you’re out a job. However, politics is a different animal because the candidates rarely set the message straight away. The press usually does it for them, as they did in the case of the Badger/Michigan State game. It’s not as compelling if the associate press/coaches poll doesn’t have them ranked highly.
Trump goes in setting a low bar for himself. Makes sense. It fits his narrative. So, where did Clinton slip up? First, the moderation of the debate did not help her. As usual, the media could not keep well enough to themselves. Much like they can shoulder most of the blame for creating the political monster that is Donald Trump, they can take a large portion of the blame for helping to solidify Trump’s overall claim. Getting into a debate with him about whether or not he supported the invasion of Iraq is insanely stupid. At best, it makes him look like a flip flopper, which is pretty much standard operating procedure for politicians. At worst though, it makes him into a sympathetic figure. The fact of the matter is that Hillary probably doesn’t need any help making Trump look bad, she could do it herself. But when the moderator picks a fight with you, that looks bad. That builds the outsider narrative Trump wants. I always take things back to professional wresting (the similarities to politics are a lot closer than you might think); the crowd does not cheer for a team of two in a handicap match.
But we can hardly blame Clinton for that; she doesn’t control the media. NBC, like literally every news outlet, thought they could stump the Trump.But, if that were possible, we wouldn’t be in this situation, because someone else would’ve done it already. What we can blame Hillary for, on the other hand, is setting the wrong type of expectations. Rather than framing the event, like Trump, she tried to control the narrative of it. She told people not to grade Trump on a curve. And this, obviously, didn’t work. Her recourse from doing this is essentially to discredit the polls, where she can claim people aren’t grading the two candidates correctly. But here’s the problem with that: the polls are already out. Trump gets to sit around for the next few weeks telling everyone who will listen that he won the debate, and, like it or not, there’s not a whole lot anyone can do that. After the dust settled, Hillary beat Trump soundly in the debate, and somehow, she managed to lose.
So what should she have done? Rather than trying to soften Trump’s advantage of not being viewed as a politician, she should have tried to use that against him. If you think people are going to grade him on a curve, you should be the one setting that curve. A much stronger move would’ve been to paint politicians as needing to be eloquent and to handle high pressure situations. She could’ve taken up a massive effort to set up the debate as a qualifying event for the president. Finding examples of how you expect Trump to act and attaching them to weak candidates of years past would’ve been smart. She should’ve set the curve of what’s expected in a debate, knowing that Trump would not be able to deliver on that. In that instance, people are still going to grade on a curve, sure, but now it’s your curve. Suddenly, he doesn’t look so good when his actions are anchored to something negative.
Now the problem is that Trump’s poor performance from last night can be framed as a winner. After all, he just crapped the bed and won the debate. Even if you beat him in the same fashion again, you’re likely going to come out a “loser” the second time.
So what do you do moving forward? If you’re Clinton, you need to make sure that repeated video of the debate is shown leading up to the next one. People have incredibly short memories, so a series of ads showing his missteps from the debate is probably your best bet. You want to show Trump fumbling through answers about race. You want to show vague answers related to policies. What you don’t want to do is sling any mud. He’s covered in mud already. Being slightly muddier isn’t going to hurt him. And you certainly don’t allow Trump to play the sympathy card anymore. After all, his angle is that the deck is stacked against him. This strategy weakens both his image and his argument. Negative ads only make him look better.
If you’re Trump, you keep playing that card. You put all your chips on it. America loves an underdog, and if you can successfully continue to push this narrative that the Washington insiders are against you, then you’ll have a very good shot winning things (debates, the nomination, the presidency) that you probably don’t have any business winning.
See, that’s the power of expectations right there. They allow someone who, by all means is absolutely not disadvantaged in anything, to frame themselves as a sympathetic underdog. They let two mid-card wrestlers to grab the spotlight. They make a September Big 10 football game to be a lifelong memory. They turn the fans of a team rabid when they don’t win the game they’re playing soundly enough.
In short, expectations are everything. So how can you use this to your advantage? First and foremost, always consider the expectation that you’re going to set in any situation (if it’s not already established by society… going into a restaurant and telling them that you expect top notch food and excellent service will probably backfire on you). If you’re starting a new job, let them know what you do well and what you expect. If you’re seeing a new boy or girl, be up front with them about what you expect in the relationship. Just got into a group project in college? Get everyone together and make sure they know what’s expected of them.
The list goes on and on, but I hear people complain about this all the time. And, 99 percent of the time, it’s not some sort of deep political gesticulation; it’s a matter of simple communication. As we all learned when we were kids: use your words. Either set your expectations with what you expect to be your reality, or suffer the consequences of having your reality dictated by poor expectations. That goes double for how you treat yourself. If you have have high expectations for yourself, you need to act accordingly to meet them. More often than not, one of these two situations is the root of a person’s unhappiness.
Speaking of expectations, the arrow is definitely going up on my SCLPLOTCOTW picks, with a strong Lions cover of 7.5 (lol) on Sunday, I’m now sitting at 2-1. I’ll be making another pick shortly, but I’m very much leaning towards a Dak Attack. Expect that by Thursday (see what I did there?).