Politics and Sports

When people compare politics to sports, they do not mean the comparison to be flattering.  Voters, we are told, treat politics as irrationally as sports fans do football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.  (The less said about soccer, the better—a good principle for life in general.)  In this analogy, the Democratic and Republican parties are the equivalent of sports teams, and the reason why voters often ignore the issues and stick with their chosen party is explained in terms of long-standing attachments to the Green Bay Packers or the Chicago Cubs or the Boston Celtics or the Detroit Red Wings.  Politics, like sports, is tribalism, you see, and those who have risen above tribalism have no desire to watch sports and no irrational attachment to a particular political party.  (The fact that such people vote overwhelmingly Democratic is proof, in their eyes, of their rationality.)

Drinking beer with some fellow Rockford Wildcats cross-country coaches while watching the Chicago Bears secure the third pick in the 2017 NFL draft on New Year’s Day, I suddenly realized that this comparison is, as Harry Frankfurt would put it, pure bullshit.  Yes, there are often irrational attachments in politics—my Polish grandfather, before he died in 1972, made my devoutly Catholic grandmother promise never to vote for a Republican, a promise that increasingly haunted her as the Democratic Party both nationally...

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