Yesterday I was talking about the #takeaknee with a liberal friend and got asked “Why do they play the national anthem at football games anyway?”
Well today I was reading the description of the loyalty moral foundation in Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” Here are a couple of quotes from that that show what caught my attention:
“Much of the psychology of sports is about expanding the current triggers of the Loyalty foundation so that people can have the pleasure of binding themselves together to pursue harmless trophies. “
“[The Loyalty/betrayal foundation] makes us sensitive to signs that another person is (or is not) a team player. It makes us trust and reward such people and it makes us want to hurt, ostracize, or even kill those who betray us or our group.”
It strikes me that if a bunch of people are going to get together for the purpose of getting their loyalty emotions all riled up, at least some of whom will be rooting for different teams, it’s a good idea to remind people that really we are all part of one meat-team, America, and we don’t actually want to kill each other.
Football is all about an Us vs. Them dynamic. Us will Drive through Them, Score over Them. Us will Hit, Block and Tackle Them. It’s about getting your blood pumping and getting the ready-to-do-battle adrenaline rush. It’s about putting mental energy into imaging applying your Team’s strengths to the other team’s weaknesses so your team can WIN! At least that’s what it’s about for the people who pay to be there or to watch, the fans. For player, owners, and officials it may be about making money, but they can only make money if they generally deliver on that Loyalty trigger that the fans are paying for.
So football games are an unfortunate context for any protest that looks like a rejection of loyalty to team America. Questions of back suffering or police fairness are going to get swapped by a visceral “Are you Us or are you Them?” question.