You’re not smart just because you hate sports

So The Huffington Post’s “Religion” blog is really great, most of the time. But sometimes, they post something so maddeningly ignorant that it makes my head spin.

Today was Eliyahu Federman’s “Why I Won’t Watch The Super Bowl”, a masterpiece of smug, pseudo-intellectual jackassery and….I can’t even. Just read it.

I have been invited to countless Super Bowl parties all of which I have declined on principle. The Super Bowl craze typifies the herd mentality, primitive tribalism and consumerism.

Okay, so you’ve started with your hook, got a clear thesis statement. Now you’ve got to prove it.

The herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes succumbing to blinding peer pressure to adopt certain behaviors, beliefs and mindsets. This type of groupthink is characterized by rooting for a particular team irrespective of any other considerations but the fact that all your friends are rooting for that team. This mindless obedience and blind faith seems common to sports enthusiasts and religious fanatics.

Virtually all sports fans exclusively support the team they grew up with and often despise rival teams. Why? Simply because they were born in a particular city and thereby identify with their home team. My tribe is better than your tribe mindset. This squarely meets a tribalistic mentality of harboring a “very strong loyalty that someone feels for the group they belong to, usually combined with the feeling of disliking all other groups.”

Okay, so first of all, mellow out, Eliyahu.

Secondly, this article bypasses all the actual substantial criticisms to be made of football – that it unfairly exploits and injures its players, enriches the already rich owners, etc. – in favor of an unnecessary abstract, philosophical argument. And like so many abstract thinkers, Eliyahu is so concerned about making a point that he doesn’t really pay attention to realities on the ground.

First of all, sports-team “tribalism” is playful. The difference between “sports enthusiasts” and “religious fanatics” is the amount of deaths the two respectively cause. With the exception of a few soccer riots (which are usually more about rioting than soccer), there are very few people who get that serious about sports. Even when they do, it’s because sports is play. Sports offer us an opportunity to enter a world with clear-cut identities and senses of right and wrong, explore and enjoy that world, and leave that world again. Nobody is killed or punched, except in those rare occasions where we get so buried in the game that we confuse it with reality. And while we are in that world, we eat chips and chicken wings and enjoy the company of each other. So this playful tribalism might bring us closer together, rather than moving us further apart.

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