Every red-blooded American male lives and dies with his favorite team. As a rite of passage, he masters the lineups, statistics and intricate details of strategy, tactics, player strengths and weaknesses. Put two fans in a room, and they’ll launch into a debate as passionate and subtle as anything you’ll hear at the UN.
While other teams are attacked, each fan saves his greatest resentment for his own team’s foul-ups. As they break his heart, he’ll boo their errors, misses, whiffs, boners, blunders and failure to appreciate the infinite subtleties of the game–details fans master without prompting. Just as hitting a fastball is arguably the hardest act in sports (here come the arguments!), so is mastery of any sport’s arcana one of the great feats of human intelligence.
These are obvious truths that even George Bush understands and embraces. He probably understands why Red Sox management fired Manager Grady Little yesterday, just for the hope that things could get even better. Based on the Sox’ love affair with the stats, it was a responsible decision, loyalty notwithstanding. When you’re running an enterprise as important as a baseball club, there’s no room for fuzzy thinking.
Such clear-headedness is clearly unwelcome at the national level. Bush feels that, unlike Grady Little, his contract should be renewed even though every stat that the Republicans have ever embraced is in the toilet. And traditional principles? We can only remember with nostalgia the good old days when our team seemed to do all the right things every time they stepped on the field. Wouldn’t it be great to sit in the stands with Dad again, and look at our national team through his eyes?
The only reason the voters could conceivably retain the country’s current management would be some vague gut feeling like the one that caused Little to hang in there with Pedro Martinez in the seventh game of the AL championship.
And isn’t this game a bigger one than baseball, too important for sentimentality? When you put a gun or fighting vehicle in a person’s hands, it’s time to pay attention to the larger game. The game of life and death.
Rational society is in a life and death battle with religious fundamentalism. Rationality–Enlightenment, literally–is the great thought behind our nation’s founding, inspired by a movement that grew out of their great technical communications breakthrough, local newspaper publishing and the technical mastery of its user interface (literacy). We have fuzzy-headed thinkers all around the world, basing their livelihoods on the eyeballs and anger of people who prefer a simple wrong answer to a a more nuanced correct one. This demagoguery is the root of “evil” in the mid east and here in the US.
It’s the Entertainment, Stupid!
To feed our partisan passion, most of us have lined up behind one of the two dominant political sports teams. We attack each others’ party and position with a passion and incivility that divides families and makes us dumb ourselves down to meaningless chat at Thanksgiving.
We do it for the same reasons that we argue about teams–entertainment. We’d rather argue politics with someone close enough to attack than to reason together in support of the larger team called America. The cost to our society and progress is immeasurable. It’s not because the issues, statistics and concepts are too difficult to master, they’re nothing compared to sports stats. The problem is the superstition that you’re a bad fan of your country if you criticize its management.