Winston Churchill once said, “Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.” As of late, however, politics in America could have fooled me! This election feels very much like a game: a football game.
I am a die-hard sports fan, specifically football. I absolutely adore the Dallas Cowboys, and I am comfortable with the philosophy of professional athletics and its fans. Recently, while watching both the Republican National Convention last week and the Democrat National Convention this week, I have noticed some eerie similarities between politics and professional football culture.
Therefore, I have created a guide of sorts, comparing these two contradictory aspects of American life, identifying acceptable and unacceptable practices in each category. It is my hope that this article reminds us all that football is a game; politics is not. Let’s get back to making it an “earnest business,” shall we?
Similarity 1: Judging someone based on the team with which he/she identifies.
I admit it, when I meet a Redskins, Eagles or Giants fan, I question who that person is and how they could be so misguided. There is only room for one team to reign supreme in the NFC East, and it is the Dallas cowboys. However, this is usually accompanied by jokes and friendly competition. And at the end of the day, I recognize that every person has his or her right to identify as a fan for whichever team he or she chooses. Even though I might not agree with the choice, I know that their decision does not reflect whether or not they are a good or bad person.
On the other hand, democrats and republicans are profiling each other, attacking each others’ character, and completely refusing to entertain the fact that there are good and bad individuals in both parties. Choosing political ideologies are not as black-and-white as choosing a favorite football team, so let’s stop acting like it is. Although the election is obviously competitive we should be more open-minded with the each other, because after all, both parties are only trying to improve this country.
Final call: Acceptable in football, not in politics.
Similarity 2: Trash Talking
Every sports fan has attacked players and fans of opposing teams at some point. However, I am going to focus more on the players here. There have been innumerable fines for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, has called Peyton Manning’s throws “ducks,” has called out Michael Crabtree several times, and has exchanged some intense words with Tom Brady. Further, after the NFC Championship game in 2014, Sherman accused a confused reporter of “talking about him” after he declared himself the “best corner in the game.” These are only incidents of one single player; there are over 1,500 NFL players in the league.
When it comes to trash talking during both national conventions, I am almost left speechless. I have little to know idea where the candidates stand on various issues, but I know lots of skeletons in each of their closets because it seems that all that happens at these events is trash talking. Even their commercials are mud-slinging; instead of, “You should vote for me because…” the campaigns are both seeming to stand on, “Don’t vote for the other candidate because…” I want to be an informed voter. I want to know exactly what Trump and Clinton plan to do about issues like education, the war on terror, etc. I don’t want to know their end game, I want to know their plans. Trash talking is getting in the way of the real concerns at stake in this election.
Final call: Relatively acceptable in football; it’s meant for entertainment, after all, unacceptable and distracting in politics.
Similarity 3: Chanting
If you have ever been to a football game, professional, college, or even high school, you know that chanting is a major part of the culture. It is meant to pump up the players and unite the fans. The chants can range from something simple and generic like “DE-FENCE,” or specific to a team like, “J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!” On the other hand, some chants can get relatively ugly. Green Bay Packers fans have been quoted chanting, “Bears still suck!” at games.
When watching the conventions, particularly the RNC, I was taken aback by the chanting in the crowd. As expected, many of the chants at the RNC were not chants encouraging the candidate, but rather, putting down the other candidate. Chants like “Lock her (Clinton) up!” and “Hillary for prison!” popped up often. On the other hand, the DNC chants seemed to also be chastising their own party candidate and politicians with chants like, “Bernie!” during the opening prayer as well as Bernie Sanders supporters chanting, “Lock her up!” Additionally, the crowd got rowdy toward former CIA Directory, Leon Panetta, with chants of “No more war!” Why can’t the chants be a little more lighthearted and empowering?
Final Call: Acceptable in both, as long as the chants are performed for the right reasons.
Similarity 4: Secrets/Scandals
Deflategate, the scandal wherein the Patriots supposedly tampered with the footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game, was even named after a political scandal!
This year, we have had Hillary Clinton’s email scandals (yes, both of them), and Donald Trump has been accused of having an allegiance to Russia and a friendship with Vladimir Putin. Scandals and secrets are everywhere!
Final Call: Not acceptable in either.
Similarity 5: Ignoring Major Flaws of Players
As someone who lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh, I have heard so many fans defend Ben Roethlisberger, who was accused of sexual misconduct in 2010. Although he was accused of rape, many fans have stood by their quarterback saying, “He’s changed!” I, personally, have no room to talk. As a Dallas fan, we have some of the most dysfunctional players with track records miles long. However, I recognize that although I like the team, the players are not necessarily always good people.
In politics, democrats and republicans alike mindlessly defend their candidates. There is little to no argument here: Hillary Clinton is a crooked liar and Donald Trump is a coward who hides behind his bullying persona, specifically towards minorities. Let’s stop pretending like these individuals walk on water, OK?
Final Call: Not acceptable in either.
Winston Churchill once denied that politics is a game. If he were around today, although he was not American, I am positive that he would be disappointed in The United States, as our election season is shaping up to be more like football season. If we cannot get politics to become an earnest business again, I might just start tailgating debates to distract myself from the sad truth that is the contemporary culture of American politics.