I hate sports analogies, but sometimes, they’re useful.
I’d like to pose a question based on such an analogy to the significant number of Americans who choose a political party and thereafter “root” for it in much the same way they do their favored sports teams: policy, shmolicy, it’s my guys, right or wrong!
Let’s say you are a diehard fan of a particular sports franchise. In this alternate universe I’m positing, the owner of the franchise has lots of draft choices and is choosing someone to be on “your” team.
Would you be happy if he chose to add someone to the team who had never played the sport? Someone who had never been on any team, major or minor league? Someone who didn’t know the rules governing how the game is played, and displayed no interest in learning either those rules or the basic strategies of the game?
If, for some unfathomable reason, the owner did choose this person to join the team, and placed him in a prominent position, how would you react when he refused to listen to the coaches and boasted that he was smarter than they were? What would you think when he insulted the referees/umpires and refused to abide by their decisions, telling everyone within earshot that the officials couldn’t be fair to him–that they only made calls against him because they came from an inferior background and that’s why they were always yammering about “the rules”?
How would you feel when he constantly attacked the sportswriters who covered the games, accusing them of “making up” stories about his errors (even the ones on camera, the ones everyone could see for themselves)? How about when he engaged in abusive (and frequently misspelled) twitter rants about the missteps of his teammates or opponents, and excoriated sportswriters for writing more about his (numerous and embarrassing) errors than the mistakes of those others?
These are actually peripheral questions, of course.
The most important consequence of the team owner’s choice–the entirely foreseeable result of drafting a self-important blowhard who has no idea what teamwork is or how the game is played or even what the game is–is that his participation immediately drags your team down, makes it play badly. So badly, in fact, that the entire league suffers. Fans depart, attendance dwindles, sportswriters–even those who usually cover other sports, and live in other countries– make fun of your team for its ineptitude and criticize your league for not stepping in to do something about the constant disregard for the rules. The owner can no longer persuade good players to join the team, so the errors and fumbles get worse.
Meanwhile, the team’s longtime rival wins games, and gains fans and prestige.
But hey–it’s your team, right? So even when you realize that the owner is keeping this guy on the team because he’s a useful distraction–a goofball whose antics are keeping people from focusing on the deal the owner has made with the other owners to change league rules in a way that will enrich them at the expense of fans like you–why do you keep attending the games, contributing to the “gate,” and rooting for “your” team?
When does team loyalty stop making sense?