Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll discovers A ROOTING INTEREST. She writes:

One time when our son was about 6, he came into the family room where his father and I were watching a baseball game. “Who’s winning?” he asked. “The Yankees,” we spat. “I’m for them,” he said, clearly just wanting to be on the winning side. “So was I,” sighed his father, “when I was your age.”

A short time later, our son developed the family’s fierce loyalty to the Minnesota Twins and came to learn that the sole purpose of professional sports is to break your heart. (Minnesotans know that more often than not those very Yankees were the agents of that heartbreak in the playoffs. The playoffs inevitably led through the hated Yankees. And came to an ignominious halt most of the time…)

Moving forward a half century, give or take, Joe and I had not watched a single down of football since Colon Kippersnack began monetizing his ungrateful hatred of America by kneeling for the National Anthem. But, with the Vikings temporarily in contention – see, Heartbreak of Sports, above – we tuned in last Saturday and Sunday.

And I discovered an amazing thing about myself: I developed a rooting interest within about 30 seconds. The first game we watched was between the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. For a million dollars, I could not have named a single player on either team. I was only vaguely aware that those WERE teams in the NFL. In such cases, I will often root for the city or state. For example, I routinely root AGAINST Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Baltimore and other wretched, dangerous blue cities with incompetent pro-criminal woman mayors.

In this case, I had nothing against Tennessee – my favorite comic, Nate Bargatze, calls himself “The Tennessee Kid” – and I have been a fan of Opryland since I was a kid. But when the chips are down, I will always root for FLORIDA because of their COVID politics and their great governor. And so my mood rose and fell as I watched the game and, as luck would have it, “my” team did triumph in an inspiring come-from-behind win.

It would appear that we endlessly disappointing human beings are hardwired to be “tribal” and to have a rooting interest in everything, no matter how trivial. Comedian Emo Philips had a routine long ago that I will attempt to paraphrase from memory that drives home the tendency of humans to divide into and identify with ever-smaller groups:

Two men meet on a bridge. They are about to joust when one says, “Wait! I am a Christian!” The other says, “What luck! I am also a Christian, in fact a Protestant!” “I am also a Protestant… a Lutheran.” “I am a Lutheran too! Missouri Synod.” And the other guy says, “Die, heretic!”

The tribalism is easy to understand as a safety feature when we lived in small groups. What if an “other-looking” stranger approached? He may be after our mastodon leg, our woman, or just looking to bop us on the head with a rock for fun. Danger, danger, he’s not like us!!

But what in the world explains our national obsession with rooting for sports teams? Why, I remember one Sunday many decades ago when I was so depressed by a particular Vikings loss that I had to go walk for MILES around the neighborhood just to get my blood pressure back to its normal stroke level. Yeah, all the smartest people recommend ruining your health over emotional investment in a bunch of ingrate millionaires working for a billionaire!

Of course, it’s not just national – my two foster kids were from El Salvador and Honduras. Though they hadn’t been born yet, both were aware of the 1969 100-Hour “Soccer War” between the two countries after El Salvador defeated Honduras in a critical soccer match. Needless to say, the match was mostly a flashpoint and there were many underlying causes for the conflict, but some 3,000 people died — in keeping with the time-honored tradition of all wars, mostly innocent civilians! Yikes!

That’s a whole lot worse than a snotty banner about the Packers held above a bridge that the thousands of Cheeseheads leaving the Twin Cities could not help but see! As silly as most drummed-up sports “rivalries” ultimately are (Sawks vs. Yankees, Cubs vs. Cards, Sooners vs. Cornhuskers), they do not generally have the potential for the violence of political rivalries. At least outside of Central America. Sure, a few bar fights, some non-fatal gunplay or harmless stabbings, but not 3,000 thousand dead in four days.

A rooting interest in politics can very quickly lead to the abandonment of all dearly held principles, starting with “not bearing false witness,” not soliciting or accepting bribery, and not pretending that it was a wild coincidence that your printers were out of ink, but only in Republican strongholds. Lookin’ at you, my beloved Arizona.

In recent years, political campaigns have solicited endorsements from pop culture icons in music and entertainment. But there has been a subtle change in mostly rooting AGAINST rather than for a candidate. Particularly in the unhinged vitriol directed at first George W. Bush and then magnified 100-fold against Trump. “Well, my goodness, if someone as good-looking as George Clooney hates Trump, then I better hate Trump, too!” goes the apparent logic. “I try to take as much political advice as possible from Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift,” said nobody ever. But it must work, because they keep doing it.

They must think we seniors are the stupidest demographic of all. Every few weeks they haul out some has-been like Cher, Rob Reiner, or Bette Midler to shriek in semi-literate Tweets about how Donald Trump belongs in prison. I never cared what any of these three mush-minds thought even when I AGREED with some of their politics, and I cannot imagine who cares what they think now. They probably pay Breitbart to keep their names in the spotlight.

So every election is like a giant WWE cage match with trash talking, insider help in the debates (much like the “blind” referee in pro wrestling), and orchestrated nonsense that has nothing to do with what is good for America or even what is constitutional. And voters numbly go to the polls after being assaulted with attack ads for 18 months or so and vote against “the bad guy.” Or they just go to a Post Office Drop Box at 3:00 a.m. wearing rubber gloves and a mask to tuff as many pre-marked ballots as possible into the Box. Because that other guy is SO BAD. Every single one of the interchangeable, unfunny late night “Jimmys” said so.

The most insidious rooting interest, carefully cultivated and nurtured, is by race. How I admire the relative handful of open-minded, honest, concerned conservatives of color. I know from being a conservative Jew what a lonely road that can be and the consequences to me are far more benign. We have had a long, slippery slide for about fifty years now of racial preferences, set-asides, diversity training, and blatant discrimination against whites and Asians, particularly white and Asian men.

I have mentioned before how sad I thought it was when I heard a talented young black woman comic say “I wish more comics looked like me.” Give it a rest. I learned to be a comic from watching Jack Benny (older Jewish man, not like me); Bob Newhart (older Catholic man, not like me); The Smothers Brothers (older men, musicians, not like me).

I also greatly admired the story-telling ability of Bill Cosby, an older black male, who also looked nothing like me. Not even to mention that I have never had sex with a comatose person I “roofied.” I do not know from experience, but I would guess that a comatose male partner is of limited use. Nevertheless, no matter how creepy Cosby turned out to be, it does not erase the perfection of the “Noah Routine,” which was pure genius.

Minnie Pearl was another big influence even though she was a wealthy, cultured Southern lady pretending to be a hillbilly – neither thing like me. And to a lesser extent, Joan Rivers was a role model even though, unlike me, she was a woman obsessed with luxury, designer clothing, and plastic surgery. When I moderated a talk she gave to a woman’s evening out, she was kind and congenial to me but would not shake my hand lest it somehow ruin her manicure. Yup, exactly like me. Lol.

The race-obsessed will claim that, in fact, they are ALL exactly “like me” because they are all white, except Bill Cosby. In their sick world, skin color trumps everything. But that requires the leveling of every characteristic of personality, age, sex, and culture, discounting everything BUT skin color. We persist at this at our personal and political peril. It is where we are headed if we have not already arrived. But will even THAT be enough? The Hutus and Tutsis would prove that it will not. Oh Em Gee, you guys. They are both black without a white villain in sight. Whom to root against?

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