Playing for your team

The alliance politicians seek to achieve is very similar to a sports marketing division.

Jake Perron

I was growing increasingly frustrated with three guys wearing nearly identical outfits (khaki shorts with bulging cargo pockets, striped polo shirts and sandals that displayed months of toenail neglect). All three were sitting side by side, one row ahead of me, with their laptops occupying the space most students use for their notebooks. I wasn’t frustrated with the distraction their laptops imposed on my intention to actually pay attention to the lecture. It’s the underwhelming content on their laptops that diverted my attention and provoked my frustration. “Sports scores Ö here are a couple of class acts,” I thought.

But when I got home and retreated to my own laptop to browse the Drudge Report, The New York Times homepage and Christopher Hitchens editorial updates, I noticed similar behavior. In a way, the White House is a lot like Shea Stadium, and tailgate partiers are uncannily similar to delegates toasting in outlandish costumes, waving their side’s banners at conventions.

The political atmosphere of today is germane to the world of sports in many ways. The most prominent and disgusting similarity between the two is the alliance politicians attempt to achieve between their party and the citizens of this country, marketing brand loyalty over objective thought.

“Hillary raised $35 million, while John McCain struggles to keep his campaign afloat with $2 million.” (I’d place my bet with the Democrats, as the bookies in Vegas would advise.) Or my favorite, “Either you’re with us or the terrorists” – a hard choice for many Americans.

Whichever route you choose, you’ll find yourself supporting a party come hell or high water, and losing is not an option for “the team.” The alliance established by political parties is a very similar devotion as those purple and gold faces yesterday at the Metrodome. The similarities between the spying of both the New England Patriots, (Patriots?) and the National Security Agency (Security?) reflect this win-for-the-team-at-all-costs mentality.

The mass media covers American politics like ESPN covers athletic competition, which is manifested in a polarization of political thought and alliance, regardless of the underlying ideology. San Francisco Giants fans support Bonds despite the performance enhancement allegations. Hockey fans root for the player fighting with his team’s jersey pulled over his head. Democrats support Clinton in spite of accepting donations from a billionaire fugitive. And billionaire Republicans stand by Alberto Gonzales while he supports torture and the firing of U.S. attorneys for political purposes.

This groupthink mentality destroys the possibility of arriving at what’s best for the nation, and the accepting of losses after the big game. Instead, decisions are made based upon what’s best for the party’s advancement. It’s politically irresponsible to postulate that every issue under the White House’s roof can be reduced to two positions, or much less, define every individual in the nation on one side or the other of these issues. Even more, it’s statistically impossible for the 300 million citizens of this country to agree with one doctrine across the board.

Politicians treat their job as a sport. All the elements of athletics are present: competition, winners and losers, cheating, alliances and even team colors. At this point, it seems more appropriate for black and white to be the representative colors rather than red and blue, because the reduction of ideas in Washington is certainly not American. The once savory melting pot has become a bland soup.

This mentality is even pervasive on campus. When the most recent strike was occurring, students were taking sides, whether that entailed fasting or lambasting, with very limited knowledge of the situation. Instead of researching the strike, they chose sides that often reflected a working class outlook or management perspective acquired in their youth.

This is not to say that political responsibility is nonexistent. Christopher Hitchens, once a staunch liberal, is an active voice for the war in Iraq. New York City Mayor Bloomberg, a Republican, supports abortion rights and tax increases (granted, he did switch parties because he wouldn’t have been first pick on his own team). Need I mention Norm Coleman?

After the many beatings I endured from my brother as a child, my father would sit us down and hear out both sides of the story. After he heard each of our “alibis,” he’d always revert to the same adage, “There’s always going to be your side of the story, and the other guy’s side. Somewhere in the middle, the truth is found.” I guess I was never wise enough to ask, “What happens when the only definite choices are my side or his side?”

Jake Perron welcomes comments at [email protected]