Given choice between Trump and Clinton, Gregg Popovich ponders the fall of Rome

Ben Rohrbach
Ball Don't Lie
USA Basketball assistant coach Gregg Popovich already led America to victory in 2016. (Getty Images)
USA Basketball assistant coach Gregg Popovich already led America to victory in 2016. (Getty Images)

A recent poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post suggested Donald Trump is the most unfavorable presidential candidate in more than years. The second-most unpopular candidate in that same span? You guessed it: Hillary Clinton. Which means, regardless of who you support for this November’s election, chances are you’re voting for the person you perceive as the lesser of two evils.

It seems San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich subscribes to that reasoning, based on his comments to The Wall Street Journal in an article detailing his new practice of testing players to “see who’s paying attention in the world” and keeping a ledger of who performs best in his civics class.

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Expressing his disappointment after watching the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, Popovich told The Wall Street Journal of his failure to watch Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate to the conclusion:

“I worry that maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic, but I’m beginning to have a harder time believing that we are not Rome,” he said. “Rome didn’t fall in 20 days or 30 years. It took a couple hundred years. The question is: Are we in that process and we don’t even know it? I really am starting to think about that. It’s not just the two candidates. It’s the way the whole thing is being treated.”

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but leave it to Popovich to create the idiom, “Rome didn’t fall in a day,” and then apply it to our American culture in the age of Trump vs. Clinton.

Indeed, there are many parallels to draw from the political corruption, civil unrest and financial ruin that led to the Roman Empire’s early century downfall and today’s social climate in the United States.

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So, when the topic of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest was broached on Media Day, Popovich publicly stressed the importance of political pressure to bridge the country’s current racial divide. Privately, he greeted players at training camp with a copy of the 2015 book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and a screening of the just-released Nat Turner film “The Birth of a Nation” — both historical perspectives on racial issues that persist today.

“I think it’s important for their lives, for their kids, their wives, for our basketball team,” Popovich told The Wall Street Journal. “Everybody’s gotta get engaged with this elephant in the room that we all have to deal with, but nobody really wants to. People are, like, tired of it. Is it race again? Do we have to talk about it? Well, the reason we do is because it’s still the elephant in the room. Because it still has never been taken care of. Because it’s still there.”

Based on this rather eloquent description of why we’re best served bridging the cultural divide through educated debate, rather than building walls, we can probably decipher which candidate Popovich views as the lesser of two evils. Come to think of it, there’s at least one person with a high approval rating and a proven record of bringing people together that might make a better choice.

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In fact, considering Popovich was already named USA Basketball’s head coach for 2017-20, I’m sure he’s already got a more detailed plan in place to make America great again for the next four years.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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