“We fight and love so much sometimes I get confused with who we are. Maybe if we just stop and chat a bit we’ll find out who we are.”
Lyric from: We Fight/We Love from the album The Renaissance
Written By: Kamaal Ibn John Fareed
Performed by: Q-Tip and Raphael Saadiq
|Photo from lockersmash.com|
My father once told me that religion and politics are two of the most divisive elements of the human experience. Even if you disagree with his use of the superlative here, I think you would agree that, at the very least, the two subjects are to be avoided at all costs in workplace conversations.
The fact is that neither matter leaves much room to be lukewarm. People are very passionate about their chosen deities and their legislative deal breakers. As such, it is hard to disagree without being offensive and difficult to keep an open mind when the very desire to do so seems to challenge your deep rooted, personal belief set or worse, wreaks with the guilt of blasphemy.
A few years ago, however, I began to contemplate the illusion of opposition and rivalry. In 2005 I attended a Public Relations Society of America luncheon featuring a talk by Skip Rutherford, Chairman of the Board for the William J. Clinton Foundation in which he shared the story of the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR.
During his presentation he noted that former President Bill Clinton had spoken with former President George H.W. Bush on a few occasions leading up to the event. Sensing the shock in the room, Rutherford explained that these men were a part of the exclusive fraternity of former Presidents of the United States of America and that a respectful bond between them was not only plausible but warranted.
Later that year, the entire nation became privy to that bond as the two joined together in a campaign to rebuild homes and lives following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, raising $100 million for relief efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.
That’s quite a turnaround from 1992 when Bush called Clinton a “bozo” on the campaign trail.
Earlier this week, Ryan Clark treated NFL fans to a shocker.
Clark, 11-year pro and defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, revealed that despite public opinion to the contrary, the Steelers don’t hate the Ravens. He alluded to the fact that the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has ultimately been defined by the fans and not members of the respective teams.
Clark even talked about having worked out with Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker, Terrell Suggs, over the summer and said that Suggs was “a cool dude”. That doesn’t seem too far-fetched when you consider that NFL players belong to an exclusive fraternity as well.
With that revelation I revisited my thoughts on rivalry’s illusion and have wondered if the guys who get paid to do this stuff only hate each the two or three weeks out of the year that they play each other, why then have fans been so invested in these rivalries over the years?
Perhaps our hatred is more mobilizing. Maybe the only way that we can truly love is when we are motivated by hate.
Clark’s admission comes to us this week as we also heard reports about a 5-year old who was forced to turn his University of Michigan T-shirt inside out in his Oklahoma City school district classroom and this Packer fan who went online in search of some support for evicting his tenants who had lied to him about being Chicago Bears fans.
Just as much as we are passionate about our religious beliefs and our political affiliations, we are no doubt steadfast and unmovable in our sports loyalties as well.
All the better for the media to tease us with.
If fans started the fire, networks have stoked many a rivalry’s flames. These guys hype up the tension in the name of viewership. They profess the excitement of the “can’t miss game of the week” featuring two of the game’s biggest rivals (insert any rivalry of any sport, college or professional, here). And of course there’s a reason why viewership matters-ad revenue.
And there’s a reason why leading up to this year’s presidential election President Obama’s campaign ads will tell you more about why you shouldn’t vote for Governor Mitt Romney instead of why he should be re-elected.
The awful truth is that we often fare better when we can define our love by our hate. Without the latter we might not ever go to the polls or root for a team.