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Interference, Encroachment, & Taunting: A Gridiron Guide to the Republican Mind

The start of the football season returned me to the autumn of 2007, when my son and I went to our one and only Bears game. The excitement of sitting in the brilliant October sun with the scent of beer and giddy optimism in the air was overwhelming for both of us. But not for long.

Much unlike yesterday's game, the Bears were getting crushed at halftime. The sun had disappeared, leaving us shivering in the Lake Michigan wind. The players spent much of their time waiting for unseen TV commercials to end.

Worst of all, it felt like a Republican fundraiser. Flags and military personnel were everywhere. God wasn't far off. A glance from the big skin-headed dudes behind us, nice guys all, inspired me to stand when the Iraqi war veterans were introduced.

As my son and I departed Soldier Field in the third quarter, and I reflected on spending about $100 per highlight, I remarked that few other fans were leaving the stadium, and that the people around us had seemed rather upbeat despite all the tedium on the field. It all made me wonder if my cranky liberalism kept me from enjoying the game. No, I thought, that couldn't be. I had always been a perfect football fan back home, beer and clicker within reach, ignoring my wife except for food announcements. Why didn't I fit in at the actual game? I wanted to learn.

A few months later Scarborough USA conducted a survey on this very topic. By far, and not surprisingly, the most Republican pastime was also the sport with the highest voter turnout, the PGA tour (men's golf). College football was next. NASCAR (auto racing) was also very Republican, but with a lower voter turnout.

Pro Football and Major League Baseball were both slightly Republican, with better than average voter turnouts. For liberals planning a night out with a conservative friend, a left-leaning NBA game would be a good choice. Or better yet, an extremely-left-leaning WNBA game.

Other intriguing data was soon to be had, much of it reminding me of that memorable Sunday afternoon. One study, for example, concluded that drinking makes a person more likely to express conservative opinions -- the implication being that conservatives don't like much adversity in their thought processes. If this is true, it helps to explain the dismissal of troublesome concepts like evolution and global warming, and to excuse the Texas Republican Party Platform's rejection of critical thinking skills in state schools. Interestingly, a recent biological study documented reduced conservative activity in the part of the brain that manages complexity.

But back to those happy football fans, God love them, and vice versa. They're happier in good part because they're more religious. They focus more than liberals on loyalty, tradition and sanctity, attributes that appeal greatly to middle class workers who might otherwise be compromised by conservative economics. According to a Pew Research study strong correlations were detected among "health, income, church attendance, being married and...being a Republican."

Conservatives and football fans have other respectable traits. For one thing, they're tough. George Lakoff's conservative "strict father" model, like a football coach, supports and protects his family by "inculcating self-discipline and self-reliance through hard work and self-denial...He commands obedience, and when he doesn't get it, metes out retribution as fairly and justly as he knows how." Lakoff's "nurturant parent" liberals, on the other hand, are focused on "empathizing and interacting" with others, while downplaying the threat of punishment.

But beneath their facade of morality and discipline Republicans are not to be trusted. Then again, neither are Democrats. A recent study found that Republican CEOs cheat less on taxes. Another recent study found that Republican CEOs cheat more on taxes. In either case, for the Republicans lately, penalty flags have been dropping all over the place:

-- Interference: On the jobs bill, the middle-class tax cut, mortgage debt relief, and the Pay Equity Bill.

-- Encroachment: On the popular and well-run social security program, and on the just as popular and cost-effective Medicare program.

-- Taunting: "Hey, we're the Job Creators! Cut our taxes and we'll stimulate the economy! Privatization will save the schools!

It's hard to reconcile all the self-proclaimed Republican morality with their long history of infractions. Perhaps the truest wisdom came from George Carlin, who discarded politics in favor of a simple comparison between football and baseball:

-- "The object in football is for the field general to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz...with short bullet passes and long bombs he marches his troops into enemy territory..with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line."

-- "The object in baseball is to go home, and to be safe."

My son and I, as long-time baseball fans, feel much more comfortable with this. We like to avoid any threat of conflict or Republican-style self-delusion.

And we're both excited about the Cubs' chances to take it all next year.

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

screen_shot_2017-01-23_at_8.39.57_am.pngPaul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

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