Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why We Care More About Quarterbacks than Senators

“People care more about their quarterbacks than their elected officials.”

Yeah. And?

It’s Election Day on even-numbered year which means all of the disgusting, condescending, willfully ignorant political ads once again culminate to an evening of poll watching, seat counting and levels of bloviating that make Monday Night Countdown seem like an elaborated game of Telephone.

It’s also a day where people have piled on those who either vote differently or abstain from voting at all. They’ve said things like “don’t let other people decide your future”; though It’ll happen anyway, regardless of if you vote or not. They’ve used phrases such as “vote or die”, “friends don’t let friends vote [insert opposition here]” and attacked the educational backgrounds of the people whose ballots disagree with their own.

Apparently Democrats are full of super-liberal,  elitist, cloaked racists with their fancy degrees in Pig Latin. Apparently, Republicans are mostly white (or whitewashed) redneck, uneducated buffoons who think wanting to have a drink with their elected official is a good idea. And without question, Independents are certifiable loons looking to steal votes and raise their own profiles.

Political Football: Says it all, doesn't it?
A Scribe favorite is when people say that they can’t understand how we put more time and energy with sports and other ‘trivial matters’ than what their governments are doing. To an extent, there’s a good bit of truth in those words. For all the millions of good fans out there, there are lumped with the types that are portrayed in movies such as Big Fan. Those bad fans have obsessions cloud far, FAR more than political visions, but permeate every aspect of their lives.

That conundrum is a favorite discussion topic because it’s born from populist anger that comes from a declining economic state. This has gone on since Americans first invested into sports. We essentially invented the sports industry; discovering that a blend of civic pride mixed with enviable athletic feats, disposable income and political grandstanding make for our nation’s largest and most successful entertainment vehicle.

It’s funny because when the good times are rolling, we pay little to no attention to everything that’s ailing us from within. It’s okay to root for millionaires or people making others millionaires (college athletes). It’s also okay for continue watching all the train wrecks on VH1, MTV, Bravo and the like, but that’s another conversation for another day.

When the money isn’t flowing, however, we scream about those who can live comfortably enough to not feel the day-to-day pinch of a recession. It doesn’t matter that most of those who’ve made millions off their craft actually earned it, it’s having such riches while others are losing meager five-figure jobs that brings out such conversation. This juxtaposition is an indictment on where our priorities are as a country, if you continue to listen to those drumming that beat.

The thing that some critics fail to understand is that there isn’t another vehicle in this country that can bring people together for a few hours in a day to cast aside most of their differences. Even with contrasting fandom and interests, people congregate around sports for camaraderie that doesn’t exist elsewhere on such a grand scale. It doesn’t mean that all the ‘isms’ have disappeared; they do permeate in subtle ways within sporting institutions and in blatantly ignorant manners among media and fans.

We look to sports because unlike most forms of our lives, we see that no matter what resources are available to the participants, they have to adhere to a set of mostly obvious rules that EVERYONE knows. Skirting such rules brings about immediate punishment that ranges from the minimum and momentary boos and catcalls to the maximum of public scorn, even when we could surely move on to another subject. No matter the errors of our favorite sports figures and our own biases, we still revere the games because it’s the only place where the physical confines within the game do not discriminate. Out of bounds is the same for all players, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual preference and political affiliation or indifference.

As Rasheed Wallace once philosophized, the ball don’t lie.

The divisive nature – or the mere existence – of politics is what brings out the worst in a society, not its best. Until we can have that ideal political discourse without condemning each other based on Gallup polls or what cable news network we choose to watch, people will never care more about elected officials more than our quarterbacks.

And by then, would we even need elected officials?

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