Sports Opinion & Analysis

Concerning Sports and Politics

In Media on November 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

By Jonathan Danielson

Well, it’s the day after, and you’re probably still a little hung over, still a little bloated from the excess nachos and beer, and still feeling the adrenaline rush of your team winning, or the heartbroken bitterness of your team losing…

Wait, I just realized the words above are actually from an article about the Super Bowl I wrote years ago, and not the 2012 Presidential campaign.

The political equivalent of a boxing weigh-in.

The problem is, those words are entirely relevant for how people view their political affiliations. How they view the outcome of an election. It’s as if politics aren’t politics, but instead a team versus another team in a sport that isn’t one.

And like the mindset of the average sports fans, when it comes to your team, it’s a world of good versus evil. Black versus white. You have your team, you root for your team, and all other teams who oppose your team are the lowest of the low. The worst of the worst. Your mortal enemy.

And apparently, from people’s responses via social media, polling, and other outlets, that’s how more and more of us are viewing our politics as well.

How Red Sox fans view themselves against the Yankees. Also, how Suns fans view their struggle against the Lakers. Also, how Republicans view themselves against Democrats, and how Democrats view themselves against Republicans.

I am a Democrat. I am a Republican. I am a Giants fan. I am a Dodger fan. I am a Patriots fan. I am a Jets fan. Everything else is wrong. Everyone who thinks otherwise, is wrong.

In sports we are told that we root for our team, and only our team. That anything else is betrayal. That anything else is being a “fair weather fan,” the worst of all insults. Being a fan isn’t just being a fan, but a member of geographically defined cult. A neo-tribalism. ESPN proudly airs commercials on how it’s not crazy, it’s sports. New Era sell us products to embrace our rivalries. To flaunt our hatred.

This is all fine, but as a person, we become ingrained in that constructed self-identity.

Unfortunately, as a country, we have also applied these fandom practices to our politics as well. We are failing to realize that, despite the spectacle it has become, our political elections are not Monday Night Football. That our politics are not “All-or-None.” We can find something positive about the different political “teams.” We can even sometimes root for other “teams.” Just because the guy we wanted to win doesn’t, doesn’t mean we lose on a whole. We don’t even lose. In politics, especially on the level of citizens who aren’t even in office, it shouldn’t be us versus them, but instead us working for ourselves.

Yet, like we generalize Raider Nation as “Gang-banging Convicts,” and Steeler’s fans as poor white trash, we generalize the President’s early leads yesterday due to “Republicans not voting yet because they haven’t gotten off work yet.” In return, we call Republicans hillbillies and racists and Bible thumping inbreds.

It’s like we can’t just have a difference or opinion. It’s like we live by the trash talking we do, and it alone becomes our truth.

Let me try to make an analogy. I am a Diamondbacks fans, and seeing the Giants win two World Series hasn’t been fun. As a member of the Diamondbacks culture (it’s a small culture, but it’s ours), I have come to not like the Giants. We stole some of their favorite players during our expansion, and they booed us in Candlestick when we won our first NL West pennant. We hate Bruce Bochy, because as the manager of the Padres, he brought in his backup catcher to bunt and breakup Curt Schilling’s no-hitter in bottom of the eighth. It’s like tit for tat, and with every new crime, more resentment festers. I don’t just root for my team, I hate the other, and in my powerlessness, since I’m not actually the one playing the game, my hatred for the other team begins to outweigh my love of my team.

But I am an Arizonan living in California. I am in Giants territory, and I know my neighbors and friends aren’t the scum of the Earth. They’re just people. People who happen to prefer one team over another, and that doesn’t make them bad people or good people.

Except maybe this jackass.

During the World Series, I even put on a Giants hat, and watched the game with my Giants loving friends. That compromise didn’t make me any less of a D-backs fan, it just made me work within the context of the time.

Same should go with our politics. Voting for Obama doesn’t make us a socialist just as being a Republican doesn’t make us racist. We shouldn’t be rooting for political victories like we do the Super Bowl. It’s not all or none.

My point is this; when voting for elected officials, from the Presidency to School Board Chair, we have preferences, yes, but we are not bound, heart and soul, to those preferences. They are not extensions of ourselves, no matter how much our competitive entertainment culture has engrained these notions that we must latch on to the labels and live solely by them. We are not neo-tribes of Republicans and Democrats like we allow ourselves to be neo-tribes of Yankee fans and Red Sox fans.

In the end, we’ll all just fans of baseball.

Or something.

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