I remember leaning on the sill of my grandma’s open living room window in Nurnberg, Germany back in 1990. The final game of the World Cup just ended. The secluded and normally quiet street below was filled with revelers shouting and chanting the team anthem as if they had just crushed some invading barbarian army. With a final score of 1:0, it’s obvious that both teams were very good.
I appreciate professional sports and the athleticism it takes to play at that level but I was never a sports fanatic. It was refreshing when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in 2002, though. I had moved to St. Petersburg twelve years earlier, and the constant barrage, especially on the radio, of about how bad the ‘Suck-aneers’ were got old fast. I grew up in Northern Virginia in the 1980’s, a place where you didn’t talk shit about the local football team, especially on the radio. Two years after the Buccaneers’ victory, I was struck by a vague form of deja vu while smoking a cigarette and leaning on the balcony railing of my apartment. A couple of my neighbors were walking by below, each holding a beer. “Can you believe that shit?” they asked, looking up at me.
“What?” I replied.
“We won the Stanley Cup!”
I was watching Law and Order. “Awesome. When do I get my check?”
I’m sure at some point shortly after that one of them said to the other: “What an asshole.”
I think the harmless allegiance to a sports team that someone can identify with goes deeper than having lived in the city or attended the team’s school. I think it is much older than when the city and school was founded. I think this type of adhesion was developed as a necessity a long time ago. Maybe as far back as stress, fear and anger – primal necessities we sometimes wrestle with. And this adhesion goes hand in hand with protective instincts.
Not every bond is as innocent as the devotion to a favorite sports team, and that’s just another reason why we should not be running on automatic, but thinking. The majority of people belong to some large traditional group that they’ve identified with, and will maniacally defend. The biggest problem I see with this natural inclination to adhere to groups is that these types of factions insist that people stop thinking for themselves. And the sheep will do just that . They will even agree that something’s a good idea without having carefully thought it through: weighing other views and considering the ramifications.
Should the government allow its citizens to starve to death because they are poor?
Is it a good idea to give the government the power to legally execute its citizens?
Is it a good idea to base laws on religious dogma?
Should citizens be stripped of their constitutional rights of liberty and pursuit of happiness and imprisoned because they prefer pot rather than alcohol?
The list of principles and ethical questions are nearly endless.
“Everybody’s so busy wanting to be down with the gang. “I’m conservative”, “I’m liberal”, “I’m conservative”. Bullshit! Be a fucking person! Lis-ten! Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion. No normal, decent person is one thing, okay? I’ve got some shit I’m conservative about, I’ve got some shit I’m liberal about. Crime, I’m conservative. Prostitution, I’m liberal!” – Chris Rock.
There is a certain comfort in such inclusion. Like the first domesticated ‘dog,’ the wolf-like canid who defied it’s natural instincts and traded freedom for the convenience of a guaranteed meal, so also these sheep trade their fear and precarious lives for comfort and encouragement. But it’s not real; it’s just an illusion. And every cynic is a threat to that illusion. Don’t think for a minute the infuriated preacher with hate in his eyes spitting his beliefs at the dissident aggressor is doing so because he’s concerned about his eternal soul. Shit, if he had his way, he would burn the unbeliever at the stake in the center of town and send him to hell himself. The human ego is a powerful thing.
“I don’t like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.'” Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, “We’re the So-and-Sos,” take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it’s unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don’t participate; it will be your death. And if they tell you you’re not a team player, congratulate them on being observant.” – George Carlin.
Non-conformists are sprouting up in densities like never before – questioning, considering and thinking out of the box. These freaks are seen as a thorn in the side by the sheep, but in actuality, they hold the tweezers. See, these freaks are Galileo. They are Martin Luther. They are Thomas Jefferson. They are Lenny Bruce, Rosa Parks, Marilyn Manson and the guy with the Grateful Dead shirt who volunteers at the homeless shelter. They are not perfect, and not always right. But they are brave. To question authority, the establishment and traditions takes a willingness to question one’s ingrained, preconceived ideas. And that can be a scary place. However, it is a real place. And unlike illusion, reality is not threatened.