I’m with you till the end of the game, pal.
Why can I mash up a Marvel character (Bucky Barnes, the Winter Solider) and The Ohio State Buckeye’s beloved mascot (Brutus Buckeye) and live to tell the tale? Because, even though there ARE rabid Buckeye fans and equally rabid Marvel fans, most of them know that sports and comics aren’t a matter of life and death.
The same cannot be said about people’s attitudes towards this year’s presidential election.
“But JT, the stakes in politics are much higher!” That’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that politics needs to be a lot more like sports, because…
In sports, you don’t really hate the opposing team.
Even in the Ohio State / Michigan game, Brutus Bucky has an appreciation for Michigan because, without them, the game would just be an intramural scrimmage. Similarly in politics, if there wasn’t that Other Party and that Other Candidate we’d just have, I don’t know, totalitarianism!
In sports, you aren’t shocked that the other team wants to win.
“I can’t believe the other guys are trying to score!” said no sports fan, ever. So, in politics, we need not get riled up that people we disagree with think their ideas are actually better and want their candidate to win. Really. Even if the other candidate is, like, a Wolverine, it isn’t shocking that his fans are, in fact, fans, so don’t take offense at it.
In sports done right, there’s sportsmanship.
A friend of mine once got tickets to the Ohio State / Michigan game at Ohio State and decided to be a brave fan and wear his blue U of M jacket. Even in the sea of scarlet and grey at the stadium, he lived to tell the tale and never had to don his emergency, “Get Out Alive” grey jacket that he carried along just in case. In fact, he even accidentally bumped up against The Buck-I-Guy who turned around, looked him up and down and said:
That’s the way sports should be, and it’s the way politics should be, too. People matter more than team affiliations and they also matter more than policy positions. If you think the US needs stricter borders and immigration laws, that’s ok, but you still need to love immigrants. They are people. If you think we need a more open boarder and looser immigration laws, you still need to love your anti-immigration neighbors. They’re people too.
In sports, cliches abound and some of them are actually true.
The sentiment “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” is a line from a poem written in the 1920’s by Grantland Rice, a sports writer. The poem, Alumnus Football, is a lengthy metaphor in which a successful college football player sets out to take on life the same way he took on football, only to find himself often assailed and beaten down.
At the end of the poem, the wise old coach Experience tells him,
Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,
Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.
For Christians, how we played the Game has everything to do with those pesky Beatitudes, loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, things like that, and a lot less to do with winning arguments or elections. It isn’t that politics don’t matter, it’s just that they don’t matter more than the Gospel.
So go play the Game well. And go Bucks.