Back ups, understudies, and substitutes

Politics shares at least a little bit with baseball — at least in the sense that to get something done politically, you’ll occasionally need to rely on your backup.

You see this in the theater, as well. Eventually you’ll find that the main player isn’t available for some reason, so an understudy will step into the spotlight to carry the load for a while. The education industry has known this for years. When Ms. Reliable can’t make it one day, her students don’t have to spend the day staring at the wall. Ms. Substitute (or Mr. Substitute) is only a phone call away. Class will be back in session shortly.

Each and every one of us has the ability to pick up the ball and run with it – if we choose to. If we’re ready and willing. And if we can inspire the confidence of others who will give us that chance when the opportunity presents itself.

Like it or not, every now and then the A team can’t make the field. That’s when the B team fills in. Heck, that’s why the B team exists when you get right down to it. Whether we need one player off the bench to get the game underway, or we need the full contingent in order to play the game on any given day, having your backups ready, your understudies in the wings, and your substitute call sheet handy is critical to making progress.

Now here’s the really nifty twist to the concept – sometimes A team players are also B team participants. There’s no shame in it and there’s no downgrade of their capabilities, either. If you’ve got the drive, the ambition, the intellect, and the team spirit, you can be on two teams simultaneously and have the satisfaction of helping both of them move the ball down the field.

As a city official I often find myself in the relatively small spotlight that comes with the job. Whether I’m out campaigning for economic development, pushing to make better use of our airport, championing the benefits of the public, magnet, and charters schools in town, or just talking with a group of constituents, I’m comfortable articulating the vision I have for my city. In that situation I’m an A team player, and I like it.

There are times, however, when I’m an enthusiastic member of the B team, ready to go, waiting for the coach to call me up, and chomping at the bit when I get the opportunity. My latest foray into the public forum as a second string performer came last night. With election day approaching, a candidate for a county office found herself double booked. She had an event in one town where her presence was absolutely required, and another in a different town at the same time where she had the option of sending a surrogate.

A telephone call later, I was headed out to act as her stand in.

Now there were plenty of reasons not to go. It kept me from spending a rare evening at home with my family. I wasn’t as familiar with the issues she might be asked about as I might like to be. And it was raining. All of which add up to a big, “So what?” When you get the call, you go. That’s what being a solid B teamer is about.

You can count on me coach. I’ll be there putting in 110% any time you call. Depend on it. I’ve got your back. And you can throw in any other gamey hyperbole that floats your boat. The point is, if your teammates can count on you, they become even more loyal and dedicated teammates of yours.

It’s a two-way street. We’re building bridges out here, people. If you know that you can count on me, there’s a pretty darned good chance that I can count on you when I need support, too.

So get out there and build your team while you’re building your argument for why aviation matters in your city, your town, your county, or your neighborhood. Identify your A team players, and cultivate your B team as well.

Because you can count on a day in the future, a day that you can’t predict with any accuracy, when you’ll absolutely find yourself short-handed and in need of back-up. That’s when you call in the new kid off the bench who has the potential to knock one out of the park for you, really stick the landing, and lead you into the winner’s circle at the end of the day.

I hope I’ve made my point sufficiently well for you to adapt it to your game plan and really benefit from it — because all these sports metaphors have me worn out.


Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to You can reach him at



People who read this article also read articles on airparks, airshow, airshows, avgas, aviation fuel, aviation news, aircraft owner, avionics, buy a plane, FAA, fly-in, flying, general aviation, learn to fly, pilots, Light-Sport Aircraft, LSA, and Sport Pilot.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *