Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sports Fans and Civilization

Lots of hipsterish and nerdy types like to make fun of sports fans for their devotion to teams that don't seem to have much real relation to the fans' lives.  Passion for any particular team seems arbitrary and silly to these critics.  For example, here is an ironic T-Shirt graphic from The Onion:

To be fair, this is kinda funny.

Those who mock sports enthusiasts for their loyalty may think they are simply having a bit of harmless fun at the expense of some proles.  Not so.  By condemning communities for their arbitrary nature, the ironists are striking at the heart of human civilization.  Just about every social arrangement that exists is arbitrary to one degree or another.  Even a strong family, seemingly a natural result of reproduction, involves many traditions and arrangements that do not obviously result from any "natural" process.  In the 18th Century, there were those who argued against organized religion on the grounds that it was an arbitrary institution.  A young Edmund Burke satirized the anti-religious in A Vindication of Natural Society, which carried the anti-arbitrariness argument to its natural conclusions and ended up condemning the entire government and society of England.  Sometimes people need to simply root for their king, their church, or their football team. 

You don't have to like sports.  You do however have to accept that for people to form communities around those who participate in athletics is good, even if it the formation of such communities is rather arbitrary.  Sports are  fundamentally good activities, as is the consumption of beer and guacamole while watching them.

Enjoy the Super Bowl!