Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Us and Them

I attended Monday Night Football in person Monday night, and experienced life in the upper deck of a sold-out pro football stadium.

It was an interesting experience from several angles. Television has spoiled me... I miss having the TV announcers and decent replays, and I frown at paying $6 for a cold, chewy order of french fries. Being in the upper deck meant the field was a good distance away, but the game was entirely watchable from there.

The most interesting part was the crowd around us. I've been to quite a few professional baseball games (I'm a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks), and I can tell you this was NOTHING like that. Here are a few quick observations, in no particular order:

  1. Nearly everyone was wearing a football jersey (myself excluded).
  2. A majority of the people around me consumed multiple large cups of beer during the game.
  3. A lot of the people around me yelled at each other as much as they did at the teams or the referees.
  4. It appeared that a disproportionate number of people in the crowd were significantly overweight.

When I titled this post, I was not referring to myself or "my group." I wanted to draw attention to the way people so easily form into two factions (from their point of view): "Us" and "Them." Even when so many of these people clearly have a lot in common, the fact that some were fans of the Cardinals and others were San Francisco supporters meant it was okay to draw the line. People who did not know each other had no trouble yelling unkind things back and forth over a short distance, and did so for most of the night.

I can understand this kind of thing if you are contending for limited resources (e.g. food, water), but this was conflict for the sake of conflict. Is this the remnant of a survival adaptation? I doubt it is a genetic adaptation to hate people who are different, but I suspect it might be a social adaptation passed on through societal beliefs and behaviors (culture).

More thoughts on this later.

1 comment:

  1. natural tribalism is one thing. football is a market-driven synthetic tribalism, and the worst possible kind - the binary kind. two teams, two sides, from two places, two groups of fans, etc... none of whom (save the family and friends of the player) have any real reason to belong to either tribe. football terrifies me, and reminds me of HL Mencken: "I hate sports as rabidly as a person who likes sports hates common sense." hear hear.