Sunday, November 25, 2007

Political Fans and Sport Fans

I believe when David Kuo replied to criticisms of his post in which he called the New England Patriots “cheaters,” he also made a parallel in terms of the paradigm that many citizens have with their own political party and politics in general.

My surmise at the connection is to relate the studies which show that when speaking in terms of politics, most people will simply forego rational responses, and as brain scans have shown, political thoughts deal more with emotional responses. Considering that all one would have to do to see the parallel with sports it to simply attend a sports bar, or go to a friend’s house to see a football game, then I think the point with associating sports and pure emotional thought is a very simple and obvious one to make.

So, when David Quo remarked that the Patriots are “cheaters,” he ticked off a few people. However, consider that their coach did illegally record the other team’s play signals. Is that not cheating?

I think what might be an important exercise is to understand the definitions of what certain parties are accused of. What is a “cheater?” What is a “war criminal?” Unless the definitions have changed, then aren’t the participants guilty?

Part of the reason as to why the rational section of the brain gets taken over is because of the perceived cost of and benefit of being a fan and taking a position. Consider that an individual’s ideological preference has more of a benefit than the cost for holding that belief. Bryan Caplan calls this rational irrationality. That is to say, there is a benefit to the person for holding an irrational belief.

One example I thought of was this: Since the probability of dying in a terrorist attack is so small, then holding a strong pro-torture position - which most likely creates anti-American sentiment that breeds more terrorists and terrorism – holds relatively little cost to the internal benefit of holding that ideological perspective. Therefore, since the ideological position holds so much weight for the individual, any effort to disagree with, or demerit the position will anger that person.

The hope is that with time, more and more people become aware of how emotional and irrational some of their paradigms can be. This is why even though I may not always agree with another economist, holding a conversation with them does not usually end in fistfights.

Of course, I may be wrong about mending these trends with sports. For some reason, people hold on harder to what they believe when it comes down to their local sport team. As Americans, we should simply be thankful for not having full-blown soccer riots.
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