Why you should care
Because the sport of politics is a domestic threat.
Whether you voted for Donald J. Trump or someone else — indeed, whether you voted at all — the aftermath of the Nov. 8 election finds the United States a house divided. The gap between left and right is filling fast with resentment, disdain and fear. Just in time for the holidays too!
Clearly, dust must settle, and we’ve got to figure out how to live together and take stock of the democratic system that we’re all responsible for. The “ugly, bipartisan clash has spawned momentum for new conversation,” Dave Zirin, political and sports writer, tells OZY. To my mind, that doesn’t mean abandoning political talk and retreating to the echo chambers that affirm what we think we already know. Instead, it means engaging and arguing with respect, perhaps even with some playfulness and enjoyment. If you think there’s no model for this kind of respectful disagreement, you are dead wrong: Sports talk is a good place to start.
I’m part of a 10-person text group, all of us old college buddies. Ever since Trump announced his candidacy, politics has been our lead conversation starter; of late, though, bickering has taken a toll. Some members have withdrawn. There is still debate, but there’s much more sarcastic deflection; no one’s changing another’s opinion. And so, last week, I floated a rule: All political talk must start with a sports analogy. The most outspoken, and least sports-savvy, of the crew vehemently objected, but that only rallied the commoners. “We ARE Middle America!” one South Carolina resident shouted, via his thumbs. The vote passed 9-1.
The beauty of sports banter is that parties recognize they’re debating a game. Arguments can get crazy heated, but on the whole, mass sanity prevails. Yes, politics is more “serious” than sports. But that’s precisely why transposing some of the lightness of sports talk to our political discussions would be helpful: There’s no opponent here, only “we the people.” And when forced to recognize this, the absurdity of political victory can be realized.
So, this Thanksgiving, here’s the rule: Political banter must begin with a sports analogy. Not a sports fan? Grab a Grays Sports Almanac, fam. Want to discuss how badly the Dems blew it? Try this:
“Hilary’s campaign was like Kobe’s last season. Bad knees, no legs under her shot, fans that turned on her. The Democrats waited too late, just like the Lakers. They should’ve given the rock to a young politician. Is Cory Booker the Julius Randle of politics?”
Hate Trump? How’s this?
“This is just like Roger Goodell suspending Tom Brady four games for deflating balls with no evidence. Trump won’t listen to anyone once he takes office!”
“Trump is the Bill Belichick of politics. He has a GREAT plan, he’s just not going to show his hand. Belichick wouldn’t give Mosul a heads-up — neither will Trump.”
This is ridiculous, right? It will work. Let’s take a cue from athletics and free ourselves from hateful dismissiveness, engage in productive debate and change the way we talk about the process. Maybe we’ll even have some fun while we’re at it.