We’re Arguing For The Sake Of Arguing

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The NFL has been in the news a lot lately. Too much, in my opinion. And yet, for the second time in three weeks, it’s the basis for the words written here.

Sunday’s local matchup featured the Atlanta Falcons at home versus the Buffalo Bills. Hardly a marquee game, the pre-game hype was almost non-existent. The first clue was that parking in my usual spot was $10, at the bottom of the range that correlates to game day demand.

The crowd was a late arriving one. As the teams took the field for kickoff, I snapped a picture of the lower level premium seats. Those sections – on the lowest level of Mercedes Benz Stadium between the 20 yard lines – remained sparsely populated throughout the game.

I posted the pics to Facebook and Twitter with a joke that my fuzzy memories of childhood attribute to Skip Carey when calling lightly attended Braves games. “At kickoff for today’s Falcons game, most lower deck fans are disguised as empty seats.” It didn’t take long for the post to take off.

What I found interesting is that it was shared by friends of mine on the left and the right. Many were quite happy that their hopes of a boycott had come to fruition. Never mind that I hadn’t referenced a boycott or even provided commentary. I even noted to some that asked down the thread that the upper club level seats were mostly full, and the upper deck also more full than those lower, yet very visible, sections.

There’s a brief lesson here in a trap of anecdote vs data. My pictures (updated a couple of times throughout the game) provided anecdote. I have no idea what the paid attendance was, nor how many of those who paid actually hit the turnstiles. The pictures alone prove nothing.

If I wanted to make the case that a boycott (from the right, left, or both) were successful, then some data would be needed to provide the context. If I were trying to encourage a boycott, then taking pictures from inside the stadium during a game would make me a horrible ambassador for that idea.

The truth is, I am watching fewer televised games than usual. That’s not because of what’s happening on the field, but due to the commentary that is now provided with professional sports. What was once an escape is now just an extension of my day job – all politics, all the time.

As I’ve mentioned before, I go to NFL games primarily because of my sister. She holds the season tickets, and I go mostly to spend time with her (and usually my niece). Boycotting games in person would hurt me more than it’s going to hurt players or owners. I’m also quite safe from the rantings of Bob Costas in our stadium seats.

As I continued to watch comments on social media a familiar pattern emerged. There were charges of “fake news”, arguments breaking out between those commenting, and new editorial content added to pictures the more frequently they were shared. It was like watching a modern day version of the old children’s game “telephone”.

Many of the folks commenting were certain the pictures affirmed what they believed to be true. Some attempted to counter the narrative with facts of their own. Hour by hour, the numbers of opinions multiplied, and the topic itself was muddled. The most interesting part of it all was that in all of the comments I observed, neither the player that started the protests nor his cause were mentioned once.

When I was in 8th grade, two of my friends got into a fight of some sorts. Things escalated. Eventually, almost our entire 8th grade class was on one side or the other. I was friends with both, so I started asking what the fight was about. No one could ever tell me, other than I needed to pick a side.

The fight lasted through the entire school year. The two eventually got over it, are best friends today, and still can’t say what it was actually about. There was an argument, things snowballed, others got involved, and eventually the original issue was buried under other people’s grievances.

Right now, there are a lot of folks using the NFL as their current proxy to air their political grievances. They may eventually move on to something else, and/or they may consume the league in the process. The original issue has been eclipsed. It’s now all about joining a side. Our entire country is bickering like aggrieved middle schoolers.

The Falcons lost the game Sunday. To me, that loss is relatively inconsequential.

Our institutions – public and private – that once united us are now being used to divide us. We don’t even seem to care what the issues are about; we just can’t let the other side win.

That’s not a recipe for winning. This is how America loses. For all of us.

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Saltycracker
Saltycracker

So just ignore those acting out during the national anthem ?
Nah.
The fans were hoping this would go away week 2 by the players just standing there staring into space as usual. But the owners rushed forward following the money, mistake. And they keep it going.

evergreentree
evergreentree

Actually, it would have been very easy to ignore them. Especially since even during the height of the protests last year, most players weren’t so much as protesting as they were supporting Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest. And that this year, the protests had nearly all died down and gone away until Donald Trump began applying public pressure on NFL owners to fire them, which caused not only some players to circle the wagons, but even some coaches and owners as well. But here is the deal: even during the height of the protests, less than 10% of football players… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

You didn’t say it but part of this that also can’t be ignored is the racial aspect. It’s black athletes protesting against injustice to black citizens. Many white folks don’t want their game interrupted by such a thing.
I try to imagine if white athletes protested in the same way against, what?, the war on Christmas? (or something), would people get upset with that? Would Trump be calling them sons of bitches?

evergreentree
evergreentree

Some – including the Washington Post specifically – have tried to draw parallels between Tebow and Kaepernick. It isn’t perfect because Tebow wasn’t protesting and Kaepernick is a much better NFL player on one hand. But on the other hand the protests took place off the field before the game and Tebow’s actions took place on the field during the game, and in contexts where many NFL fans have denounced similar demonstrative behavior from “certain” NFL players (think Deion Sanders’ end zone celebrations) in the past and present. And of course, none of these “keep politics out of sports!” types… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

“Kaepernick is out of the NFL … mostly due to his own unwillingness to be a backup I might add and NOT due to his protests or the resulting boycott)”

You got anything to back that up?

evergreentree
evergreentree

@Benevolous:

Rumors mostly. And the fact that none of the other protesters – including Michael Bennett – have been ejected from the NFL, which is what led Trump to tee off on them in the first place.

Benevolus
Benevolus

As far as I know, Michael Bennett and any others protesting are under contract, whereas CK is a free agent and just hasn’t been re-hired. I don’t think anyone under contract has been “ejected” from the NFL for protesting, so I don’t think you can eliminate his protesting as a reason why he isn’t playing.

evergreentree
evergreentree

@Benevolus and Andrew C. Pope: This is precisely what irked me during the Tim Tebow and Michael Sam controversies … people who didn’t follow the NFL or were only casual at best fans all of a sudden became experts at its intricacies. For Sam, progressives used the fact that he was the SEC defensive player of the year who didn’t get drafted was proof of bigotry he faced at the hands of the NFL. Never mind that the last two consecutive ACC defensive players of the year – Jeremy Cash and Ben Boulware – also weren’t drafted, and the latter… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

people who didn’t follow the NFL or were only casual at best fans all of a sudden became experts at its intricacies. Bruh, it’s football. It ain’t that complicated. Per you, there are “rumors” that Kaepernick is unwilling to take a position as a backup. You haven’t proffered any tangible evidence to that effect. Has Kaepernick come out and said he won’t sign as a backup? Has his agent? Unless you’re secretly Dan Quinn, I’m going to give your “rumors” the same deference I do to the guy on the Falcons’ message board who has a “buddy in the front… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I’m sorry, you can’t convince me that a guy who played as a backup last season (to Blaine Gabbert of all people) is somehow now unwilling to do so. Just like you can’t concunxe me he’s somehow worse than Blake Bortles.

shanacooper
shanacooper

This is a great subject and one that needs to be expanded upon to have a true impactful meaning in the world. At first I didn’t agree with the kneeling during the anthem and to be honest I still don’t for many reasons, but the world is at attention now on the subject and the thoughts that were trying to be expressed. Now what needs to happen is a movement towards change. A coalition and funding campaign needs to be set-up with the goal of reducing police racial profiling and excessive force/ murder against black men. Fund could be raised… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

No we’re not!
I can’t believe you even said that. You must be part of the establishment fringe trying to divide us by pointing out how ridiculous our imaginary differences are.

Seriously though, I can’t even stand to go to my fave lib sites at times like this (meaning after a tragedy) because so many are so quick to try to attribute political meaning to it. Breaks my heart.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Legitimate question… if now isn’t the time to discuss the epidemic of gun violence in this country, when is it the time? I’m reminded of President Obama’s words in 2013 after the Navy Yard shooting: “No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence. But we might still have some more Americans with us. We might have stopped one shooter. Some families might still be whole. You all might have to attend fewer funerals. And we should be strong enough to acknowledge this. At the very least, we should be able to talk about this issue as citizens, without demonizing all… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

I am a gun owner and I intend to remain one, but I am also in favor of reasonable gun controls. But it has to be pretty consistent throughout the country to be effective.
Exactly how to do it I am not sure, but there are certainly examples elsewhere to learn from.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Just as an addendum… if we can’t talk about gun violence and the need for better gun laws in the wake of a mass shooting, we’ll never be able to have that conversation. According to Gun Violence Archive, there have been 273 mass shootings (shootings involving 4+ victims in the same general time and location) in the United States this year. There have only been 275 days in 2017.

Benevolus
Benevolus

I think that discussion is fine. It’s all the hysterical speculation about the shooter being “liberal” or “conservative” or “cnn’s to blame” when we have no idea yet what this guy was about that is bothersome. Many seem desperate to reinforce their paradigm with any little shred of circumstantial trivia.

Gregs
Gregs

The discourse in this country has been devolving for a long time. The result, not the cause, is the election of a president who appeals to the lowest common denomination in every single situation.

Benevolus
Benevolus

Mrs. Benevolus and I have been talking about this a lot lately. There has always been a “team” or “tribe” mentality in people, probably goes back to cave man days. But it seems in my lifetime we used to generally be able to keep things in better perspective as far as sports and politics and religion, things like that. In other words, we could agree to disagree. Now, it seems like every issue is presented by someone with a megaphone as a life or death battle. . (Now this will be controversial but for the sake of discussion I’ll say… Read more »

evergreentree
evergreentree

“From my perspective, this really became a stronger thing with the rise of conservative media, particularly Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist- they demonized everything they opposed, feminism, climate change, government itself- and invented enemies when they saw an opportunity- war on Christmas?!”

Are you totally unaware of how the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CBS News, Hollywood movies and TV shows etc. treats conservatives and their causes? Or do you simply not care?

Benevolus
Benevolus

What causes are you referring to?

Indypendant
Indypendant

“Boycotting games in person would hurt me more than it’s going to hurt players or owners”

So we can safely say you wouldn’t have signed up for the military if a crisis had arisen during your formative years.

Yeah, you won’t reply (or you’ll make some snarky comment about my comment, thus proving the title of this post).

Enjoy your day, Charlie. The world isn’t going to be a better place without some personal sacrifice.

MikeSilver
MikeSilver

The act of protesting during the presentation of the flag is a divisive act and is meant to be. The flag represents us, all of us, our nation, what our nation aspires to be, our past, our future, what is good about the USA, and represents the imperative for us to achieve the sentiments in the Declaration of Independence. When Arthur Blank and crew do anything other than standing with their hands on their heart at any part of the flag presentation ceremonies, they are giving the flag, America, the Declaration of Independence, and all of us a giant in… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

Well said! You need to post more than once a quarter!

Benevolus
Benevolus

“not shove their leftist anti-America Kaepernick agenda down our throats.” Ah, they have been a little bit successful then. Unarmed black men being shot by police are getting some agenda shoved down their throats and just about every black man in America is fearful about it. They want you to not be able to ignore it anymore. It’s something that must be fixed. They want you to share in that uncomfortableness because then you might actually help them do something about it. Some won’t though, of course. You can ignore this protest so it doesn’t disrupt your weekly quota of… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

“The flag represents us, all of us, our nation, what our nation aspires to be” I believe that is exactly the point of the kneeling protest. The flag is supposed to represent us all, but many Black people do not feel they are being included in the “all of us”, and there is a lot of evidence to support that claim. Why do Black people get convicted at higher rates? Why do Black people get more severe sentences? These issues have to be dealt with and ignoring them won’t make them go away. We all have to look within ourselves… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

“The most interesting part of it all was that in all of the comments I observed, neither the player that started the protests nor his cause were mentioned once. ”

Invoking emotion to change the subject is Trump’s greatest power.