As this seemingly endless election season rattles on toward the day when we can finally, mercifully, cast our votes, many Americans, myself very much included, have developed an ever-deepening fatigue from listening to the constant barrage of finger-pointing, backbiting, and record-questioning. It’s the pits, isn’t it? Taking the high ground and basing things solely on the issues at hand have, for awhile now, taken a backseat to continually driving a wedge between the Left and the Right, two groups who don’t need more reasons to disagree. I’ve recently realized this comes from a very troubling trend in American politics in the last decade or so, and that is to not simply disagree with the opposing side, but to breed vitriol and hate toward them. It’s the same blind despising that sports fans have for their team’s rivals.
Sports, the liking of which is something Democrats and Republicans can usually agree on, have long perpetuated this feeling of “Us vs. Them” which extends to fans. There was a time when “sportsmanship” meant how gracious you were about losing OR winning. When you were a kid in gym class, remember being forced to shake everybody’s hand after the game of dodgeball, regardless of which team they were on? You didn’t want to shake the hand of the guy who blatantly threw the ball at your face, even though you were clearly wearing glasses. What a dick, right? Maybe, but you still shook his hand to say “We were opponents, but we’re okay now.” Now, it’s a case of people immediately hating simply because the team is not the one they like.
And this hatred of “The Other Guy” has gotten exceedingly troubling and, at times, violent of late. I’m sure we all remember the poor San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten to the point of becoming comatose by two Los Angeles Dodgers fans simply for having the audacity to be in LA and want to see his team play a game. That’s ridiculous, horrifying, and incredibly sad. I’m certainly not innocent of being a partial sports fan. I’m a Denver Broncos fan and was taught since I was born to hate the Oakland Raiders. I do hate them. I don’t even know why. They’re probably just as shitty as anybody on the Broncos, but because they wear black and silver instead of orange and blue, they’re the enemy.
It’s this kind of attitude that has climbed the fence from sporting events to politics, only with much more dangerous and lasting effects. The issues at hand seem secondary to it being, literally, Red vs. Blue. This is not across the board, of course; there are plenty of people who are actually following the issues and making educated opinions on which candidate or referendum will be getting their vote, but I fear too many people have become apathetic about the actual politics of politics and instead pay attention to the bile-throwing happening on cable news channels. Political punditry is ruining our country, I’m convinced. They’re more concerned with getting and maintaining viewers than they are with portraying events accurately. And, unfortunately, actual politicians have taken note and are taking to getting people to vote for them by hating the other side.
But this isn’t a football game. When the Giants won the Super Bowl, Patriots fans were upset, and might still be upset, but a new season is right around the corner. And it’s still just a football game; whoever’s elected president is going to be the leader of the country for four years, and how can they go about doing that when they’ve spent an entire election year alienating the half of the country that didn’t vote for them? Back in the early days of the United States, whichever candidate lost became vice president. Obviously, this didn’t last very long, but can you imagine if anything similar to that happened now? “Us vs. Them” didn’t work then and is not going to work now. Politics are not sports, and there’s a lot more at stake than a ring and a trophy.