Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Special:
Sports Fan Analogue

A couple years ago, I tried to construct the sports analogue to the "red/blue" divide in American politics today. My analysis was constructed more by sledgehammer than by scalpel, but I came up with a framework: Sports "Purists" vs. Sports "Progressives."

The framework turned into a larger Page 2 feature package to tie into the 2004 elections, but it began with me crystallizing what I saw as two competing ends of the sports fan's ideological spectrum.

This column was the result. Some of the categories were more tongue-in-cheek than others, but I really was/am convinced there's a philosophical spectrum, with most fans edging toward one end or the other, as a lens through which they digest sports.

Obviously, there are some topics that defy ideological labels (although I'd argue that, much like our current political situation, fans often contradict themselves with the various sports concepts they support or reject).

I'd be curious whether you think that it's possible to create broad-based labels that might reflect our national political landscape.

Do you think that TD celebrations are good or bad for the NFL?
Do you think LeBron should not have been allowed to enter the NBA early?
Do you think that SABRmetrics are positive for baseball or ruining it?

Those are just a sample, of course. I think a lot of it is generational more than geographic, and I'm not ready to suggest there's a correlation between "red state" America and "purist" sports fans or between "blue state" America and "progressive" sports fans. But maybe there's an analogue between citizens who vote on "values" (whatever that might be) and sports fans whose perspective is rooted in specific "values."

Anyway, that's my attempt to wrap today's focus on politics into sports. I've been playing around with this stuff for a couple of years and have yet to really nail it down, but I think it could make a good spark to an interesting discussion.

-- D.S.


Ace Cowboy said...

I love TD celebrations...the NFL is foolish to insist on cutting down on them. Hate TO all you want, you know you wanna see what he's gonna do next. I don't see the harm, but I guess asshats in suits know a lot better than some dumb schmuck of a fan.

As for political analogies, in this piece I wrote earlier today, I said that not unlike the 2004 Yankees, leave it to the Lefties to peak entirely too soon. Unbridled optimism from the Democrats suddenly became dangerously cautious optimism (with a dash of Hide the Pelosi), and the Republicans over the past two weeks have morphed from sourpuss defeatists into a smug bunch of wannabe underdogs. The Republicans are basically the 2004 Red Sox.

So it's the 2004 ALCS all over again. This time I hope my side wins...

Brian in Oxford said...

Let's see.....

Small-market teams are more predominant in red states, and yet stuff like the salary cap that help them seem more like blue state or even socialistic ideals.

I guess on your ESPN list, Dan, I went 75% progressive, which kinda goes with my own political thoughts....forward-thinking but still rooted at least a bit. But it felt more like a coincidence than anything actually telling.

Do marijuana fans want to legalize Ricky Williams, is the real question.

CMFost said...

Hey Dan is it possible to a pureist and a progressive and agree with some of both ideals

Christian Thoma said...

@cmfost: Not in America. If you don't fall neatly into a category, you have crazy ideas.

BLUE said...

I don't understand why they outlaw TD celebrations. I was told it was showing up the other team or takes the focus away from the game. How did 5 seconds of Terrell Owens laying down in the endzone show up the other team or take away the focus of the game. It's entertainment, and I was entertained. Take away commercials, they take the focus off the game.

Jingoist said...

Wouldn't it be cool to have a term limit in sports? For example, say your team sucks- let's say, the Raiders. Well, maybe there should be a limit, say two 4-year terms, before ownership MUST take leave and a vote for new ownership takes place. Imagine how cool an "ownership elections" would be? Candidates could have platforms as too what direction they plan to take the team in, then fans vote based on said idealogy.

Of course on the flip side, if you have a dominant/successful team (a la the Patriots or Colts), it would be really dissapointing if the incumbant ownership had met its 2-term limit and had to leave. Of course, then you'd have situations like Robert Kraft giving his support to his son, Jonathan Kraft as his successor to help maintain stability.

I think I've been watching too many political races lately. I'll stop now.

Christian Thoma said...

How come no mention of the anniversary Magic's HIV announcement?

Because he didn't die.

Before you jump down my throat, that's an Andrew Sullivan reference.

WuzUpG said...

I think, TD celebrations are great, as long as they are not disrespecting a player/team/fan or the game. I think Chad Johnson's dances and gimmicks are tremendously entertaining and it's too bad that the NFL has cracked down on them. I do feel that TO's running to the star on the 50 was a bit overboard, but running to the star in the endzone was palatable.

I think, LeBron or any player that can do the job should be able to play in the NBA (provided that they graduated from HS). Hence, I don't think OJ Mayo should be able to enter the league because he didn't finish HS, although he is over 18.

I think, SABRmetrics are good for the game because baseball is about about statistics, anyway, because the game is so slow and deliberate that they can play percentages on every pitcher/batter matchup or narrow it down further to every pitch.

Do you think fighting is good in sports? I think, the players should be able to police their own league (NHL). Its no different that having a pitcher that intentionally throws at a batter. If a player or team is disrespecting their team or teammate, they should be able step to them. Albeit, they will have to face repercussions, but it shows that a teammate is willing to stand up for another teammate.

Anonymous said...

If I could take this a little international, I think there is so much more to talk about.

Football and baseball represent America in so many ways. Football is so regimented, has so many rules and so many stops. The salary cap system seems so socialistic, but it's more like anti-trust laws, which we did invent, after all. Because we love competition. It's a big game played in huge stadiums, and we have a holiday when the final game is played. It's like our economic system: it is brash, bold, emphasizes professionalism and winning is prized above all else. Conformity is demanded even though brash individuals are often celebrated. There are a few teams that seem to have a monopoly on winning.

Baseball (and this I borrow from many other sources) is like our political system. No one wins much. The best batters are successful little more than a third of the time. The best teams are never undefeated. That's how hard laws are to pass, how hard it is to change things. Status quo and tradition rule, much more than around the world.

As for most of the rest of the world, it's soccer. It's a mostly unregimented seemingly chaotic game. It's the essence of unfairness: even the best teams lose 1-nil and go home from a world cup that's only played once every 4 years. That's all the love and all the heartbreak every developing country knows from their history. It's the egalitarian UN crossed with the historical superiority of the Security Council: everyone is equal, but some nations are more equal. We have a government with 3 branches designed to obstruct, designed to be slow and conservative, and the rest of the world rolls the dice with parliaments that typically give all the power to one party. That, to me, is the difference between football and soccer. A 3 touchdown football game is far more predictable than a 3 goal soccer game.

For my part, I think it's the predictability of football that makes upsets all the sweeter. For futbol fans, it's the unpredictability that creates the passion and great memories.

Kevin said...

Sabermetrics have definitely been good for baseball because, Win Shares and all other far-out statistical measures aside, they've helped advance how the game is played. Nefi Perez aside, teams are starting to gravitate toward guys with a better OPS, because research has shown that OPS is a key stat.

Which leads me to wonder - when will this happen in football? Due to the nature of the sport, individual stats are hard to advance in football, but team strategies and statistics seem to be relatively easy, due to the obvious line between offense and defense (unlike, say, basketball or hockey). The best example I can come up with is that (as was pointed out in a TMQ a couple weeks back), I think teams will punt less often in the coming decade or so, especially in fourth-and-short situations and/or near midfield. But I'm surprised nobody has devoted the time towards an analysis of this yet (or maybe they have, and I haven't heard of it yet).

Christian Thoma said...


How is easy would it be to make a flopping/France joke with your analogy?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the disrespect angle a slippery slope? I mean, there's no good way to rule on that. And why respect a game anyway? This is supposed to be fun, right?

Everyone seems to be flipping out about personal conduct in sports, when 20 years ago, the Pistons, Lakers and Celtics were trading blows without any suspensions. That really was about respect.

Anonymous said...

Well, we could make fun of the French all day. btw, I love Zidane, he's like the Larry Bird of soccer (and Materazzi is Bill Laimbeer). I was not so shocked when I found out he was born from immigrant parents.

Pete said...

After looking through your chart I came out on the purist side of things by about 10. One that was split though was NASCAR. It is a top 4 sport but I still don't get it.

I don't think this is reflective of my political ideology much though.

BTW- I love that soccer analogy. The world's game gets too short shrift in the pages of American news. I bet if Bekham comes over to LA or somewhere else maybe it will change slightly.

Jingoist said...
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William Joseph said...

I haven't seen any NFL endzone celebrations that I have a problem with; however, they can get out of hand. The celebrations in the CFL are ridiculous and I think it makes the league look like a cartoon. There are prepared full team dances and skits. So there is a limit to how much I can take.

Jen said...

Niiiiiice. Two kids within two years and you aren't even going to try to salvage your marriage. Way to go Britney. What a role model for the young girls out there.

Christian Thoma said...

Oh come on, jen, are you telling me you actually believe Kevin Federline is a model husband and father?!?

Christian Thoma said...

...besides, she can always give them up for adoption to Madonna or Angelina Jolie.

Christian Thoma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

In the wtf department: