Sports Fans and Political Fans: The Similarities

I’m writing this right after watching the New England patriots lose to the Giants. I’m not a Football  fan at all but I usually catch the Super Bowl game. (The Super Bowl commercials, except for maybe two or three, were awful, by the way)

Anyway, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between sports fans and people who affiliate themselves with a political party. The reason that people back a particular sports team seems so arbitrary. If you’ve lived in Boston your whole life you’re more likely to be a Patriots fan. If you’re from New York you might be a Giants fan. Other than some irrational loyalty to a geographical region, there really isn’t any philosophical reason why you would back one team over another. Another reason that comes to mind is personality. Yankee fans and players, for example, are sometimes seen as very arrogant, and for that reason, many dislike them.

It seems to me that there isn’t much difference between sports fans and voters. In a previous post I tried to figure out why it is that people always end up voting against those things they profess to believe in. I made the observation that belonging to a particular political party was more important to many, than standing up for those things their party is supposed to believe in.

The voters’ actions seem to suggest they do not belong to a political party because of philosophical reasons. When it’s time to choose a candidate, the Democrats will stick with the guy who extended the Patriot Act, assassinates American citizens, and signs into law, bills that allows the military to indefinitely detain American Citizens. Republicans vote for candidates who stand for pretty much the same thing, and refuse to provide plans to balance the budget and reduce spending.

So what is the difference between the reasons why people support a particular team over another and the reasons why most support a particular political party over another? I don’t see many. I mentioned personality. This is what many love about Obama. “Members” of the Tea Party, which started mostly as a protest against the bailouts, are now choosing candidates who supported the bailouts. Why? Because their focus is on winning. Just like a sports fan has nothing more to occupy his mind other than winning the game itself.

So what happens when a candidate like Ron Paul comes around and tries to remind people that ideology is important? That we should be voting based on our beliefs and not just to try to win an election? Disqualified. He gets undermined for having real beliefs and the people are told he isn’t a serious player; that he’s only in it to spread some message, as if spreading the message that the country was founded upon, was some futile task and not to be taken seriously. Being a serious candidate and actually believing what you are taking about is, to many, mutually exclusive.

It’s like he’s breaking the rules of the political game and for that, he gets penalized. The new voters that Ron Paul has brought into the Republican party are seen as a threat. They are strange because they actually believe in something. You can almost hear the old timers: “Don’t they know you’re not really supposed to balance the budget and cut spending? That it’s just something we say to score points against the other team? Damn rookies.”

It’s really a shame. When our sports team loses, our lives go on pretty much unchanged. In politics, even when our team wins we’re still negatively affected because our focus was on winning. We voted for a team, a personality, not necessarily for the ideas that we–through careful consideration–concluded would give everyone the best opportunity to succeed.

Strange game this political game is. The more we play by the rules, the more we lose. Not the teams though. They’re happy they get to keep playing.

Shall we try something different? We can change the rules. We control the game.

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  • Jonathan

    Great article.

  • Will

    I appreciate this piece. Makes sense.