Politics as Sport

I grow weary of passive entertainment
I wish to be a participant and actor
In whatever this thing called life is

What do I have to offer this world in terms
Of creative or intellectual improvement?

Are the successful voices of our day
Just preaching to the choir of their congregation

Reinforcing an already agreed upon faith or agenda

Are we just providing each other with more and more
Ammunition to defeat the other guys, the other team
The idiots, the crazies, the dolts who can’t see “the truth”
Or better put “our truth”

– –

I have heard that our nation is more polarized now than during the “Civil War.”
I believe this to be an exaggeration and yet I did have to take some time to consider the statement.  I think most of us can agree that FOX News and MSNBC have certain political agendas that they are promulgating.  There does not seem to be any news source that is not “biased.”  I can not think of a single news outlet that both sides agree is an unbiased good source for news.  I guess you could claim CSPAN is merely because they don’t filter anything.  It is though politics is now a sport or a game on which you have to choose sides, and then based on your choice you only consume news/programming that fits into the choice you made.  This makes a ton of sense in sports.  I am a UT Longhorn and I will irrationally defend the Horns against any criticism especially if it’s coming from an OU Sooner.  It is fun to be irrational as a fan for your beloved team and to get in big arguments about why my team is better than yours.  But at the end of the day it’s just sport, it’s just a game, and I will admit to my brother in law who graduated from OU, that yes he has the better team THIS year.

Politics and Government, these things are not games, it is not sport.  These things matter and yet they are being treated in the same manner as sports.  This irrationality towards bills and legislation and our elected officials, just doesn’t seem right.  Why do we support senators and congressman in the face of actions that we claim to completely disagree with?
It’s because they are on our team.  The only thing the two sides can agree on in politics is that both teams suck, mine just sucks a lot less than yours.

What can’t we be fighting over which team is the greatest.  Why can’t we look at our government officials and compare them to two great teams like the Lakers and Celtics of recent years, instead of being disgusted and disappointed by them like the Dallas Cowboys of the past decade.  Is it just me or am I asking for too much to have the best of the best leading us and making decisions for us that affect this great country?  Is the problem that we do have these high caliber officials in office, but it’s easier to dismiss them as a whole, glossing over the decisions and judgments they make everyday and realizing that these people are making tough decisions and in fact are making spectacular “plays” or compromises for what’s best for the country.  The problem arises because we look at government and politics as a competition, as sport.  Would you want your team, making a compromise and playing a game at a neutral field instead of having home field advantage?  No because you want to win, you don’t care about obtaining the most legitimate outcome.  You want every advantage possible at the risk of not being able to determine which team truly is the better team.  In that same vein many people don’t want our elected officials to budge one inch on an issue, even if it’s going to take both sides budging to make a compromise for what is best for the nation.  People don’t want the best idea, policy, or compromise to be enacted; they want their policy or idea to “win.”

Bill Simmons is constantly making fun of how many analysts the different networks hire for football studio shows.  CBS and FOX football pregame, halftime, and postgame shows are crowded with 4-5 or more yelling former players and coaches all trying to dissect games and give analysis.  In the end this actually takes away from the analysis.  There are so many people talking at once trying to get their point across that the viewer ends up not hearing anything.  Jon Stewart made basically the same reflection about cable news networks and the ridiculous amount of analysts they bring in for election coverage.  Pundits galore are brought in to the point that on one network there where 12 people all talking at once trying to get their opinion voiced.

This is a simple example of more is not better.  Networks are too focused on bringing in more and more analysts and big names, and cooler and cooler technology instead of focusing on being better at reporting.

Maybe this is a symptom of a much greater deep seated issue within America.
Instead of looking at a budget and thinking what’s the best way to use this budget while setting aside money for savings, people think well we have a huge budget we have got to spend it, and why not spend it on the most extravagant technology and luxuries we can.  Our government wastes money the same way.  We are too concerned with perception instead of the reality that the way we spend money isn’t working.

Author: Brandon Fischer

University of Texas graduate and beer lover.

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