I am eyeballs deep in Dallas Cowboy country, and Sunday was an angry day for many, maybe almost all, Cowboy fans. You see, the Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to the Green Bay Packers in a close, hard fought game.
Cowboy fans are in uproar because of an unfavorable ruling against their team. They are expressing how cheated they feel, how the game was stolen from their team, how the league should be ashamed of itself and all other manner of discontent. Never mind the fact the National Football League rules required the call which was made. In my opinion, it’s a dumb rule, one which makes no sense. However, the rule has been in place for several years, and it made the call an easy one for the officials to make.
“Us versus Them” blinds us to truth
What I find interesting is how many of these same fans’ perceptions and opinions changed dramatically in one week. Last weekend, the Cowboys won a game against the Detroit Lions, and Lions fans were outraged about a 4th quarter incident which went against their team. The National Football League, in a rare move, actually admitted the decision was a clear error. The player in question also committed another penalty on the same play, the NFL admitted.
The Cowboys benefitted mightily from the call, which would have resulted in a first down for the Lions and put them into position to score and extend their lead. Instead, Detroit punted. The Cowboys scored in dramatic fashion on the next drive after converting an improbable 4th down play.
In yet another shocking move, the NFL also admitted the refs blew a blatant hold on the biggest play in the game, the 4th down conversion, the play which propelled the Cowboys to take the lead late in the game. Cowboys fans far and wide had a broad-minded, accepting, magnanimous, tolerant view of the situation.
It was deemed just one play, many other penalties were missed, some went against the Cowboys, human error is normal, it’s just how it goes sometimes, you win some, you lose some, and other attitudes which dismissed the notion the officials’ errors in their team’s favor was meaningful.
Sports officials making mistakes and fans being upset about calls are nothing new in sports, but I started to think about how blind people become when “their” team or players are involved. I know many of them to be reasonable, thoughtful people, but fandom appears to rob people of objectivity, rendering them incapable of rational thought.
Emotions obviously taint their perceptions, even to the point of seeing something which didn’t happen or not seeing what is obvious and in plain view. The exact same behavior by “US” is perfectly proper or acceptable, at least. When it’s “THEM”, the exact same behavior is absolutely unacceptable and worthy of condemnation and draconian punishment.
“US versus THEM” is not limited to sports
Most on my mind today is the idea of people’s perception about authority, namely police/public interaction. Those people who feel comfortable with and trust authority, tend to want the letter of the law applied to “THEM” because police don’t bother “US”.
Those people don’t perceive a real problem exists with authority, or that any problem which might exist is minimal, at most. Therefore, they don’t understand “THEM” and their protests. The calls are going “our” way, so let’s not be upset.
Those people who feel uncomfortable with and suspicious of authority, are much more likely to be outraged, protesting, and demanding corrective action. The problem is immediate and severe because it affects “US”, so we can’t or won’t silently tolerate what is happening.
“US versus THEM” has broad implications
In politics, it’s “my party” and “their party”. In the discussion about police brutality, it’s “just don’t violate the law, and you have nothing to worry about” and “cops systematically kill because they are all uniformed thugs”.
In race relations, well, don’t even get me started because many people don’t even believe racism is a problem or doesn’t exist now, while others see racism as the only motivation everyone has and explains every possible negative consequence in life.
In religion, it’s Christianity versus Islam, Islam versus Israel, Catholic versus Protestant, and that list goes on ad nauseam.
If “WE” don’t get out of this mindset, “WE” are in for an even more severe divide, much more so than already exists in our country and the planet as a whole. “WE” need to step back and examine truth not as we want it, and not for what it “means” to us.
Continuing to interact and think using “US versus THEM” as our guide will undermine all rational thought. The fate of our freedoms, our prosperity, peace, and our very lives are at stake.