Imagine "Christian" = "Yankees fan" and "Muslim" = "Bosox fan" (or the other way around if something about that offends you, which I feel sure is the case). There is NO COMMON GROUND. The question of Obama's religious affiliation is being asked as if he is potentially a fan of the rival team -- and no hometown fanatic can EVER betray a bit of compassion or understanding for the rival team. If you're a Yankees fan, can you ever feel a bit of pain if the Red Sox lose a heartbreaker to, say, the Angels? NO! You risk showing your true colors, and you are NO TRUE NEW YORK FAN.
If you redecorate the Oval Office, you better not use a shade of yellow that resembles one seen in a news photo with the King of Saudi Arabia. Wrong team!
It's not just black & white, good/bad, right/wrong. It's blood vendetta, that sweeps away in its path all reason, all nuance, all moderation.
The vendetta is the very point of sports. If you are not a fan, you simply don't care about sports. Thus the national dialogue is pushed to the extremes. If you are not a hater of one or the other, you are simply not in the debate. The views of moderates, neutrals, uncommitteds, are uninteresting.
That's the real harm. Well, there's real harm in violent hate, as well -- real harm in soccer mobs and Superbowl victory riots. But there's a more general harm, in acceding to the medium of the debate: the scorekeeping, the paranoia, the reduction of history (which admittedly incorporates a contest of forces) to daily pitched battles, with only losers and winners. We forget what it's actually all about.
Pro sports fans are supposed to forget about what it's about. Do YOU want to look back on your life and realize you spent it screaming over how far a little white ball got hit by a big man in a numbered shirt? Of course not. It's pathetic. The only way a sports fan can face himself in the morning is by continually buying in to the vast pretense that the contest itself is important.
But Islam? Buddhism? Shia, Sunni? Christianity? Protestantism? Catholicism? Judaism? At root -- and especially in the US, where our Constitution protects us from Federal establishment of religion -- these "teams" are actually about something very important, very personal, very precious. Yes, each has accreted weird or alien or difficult or hostile institutional mores. But at root: who is my God? Whence flow my values, my strength, my hope? What is the nature of my spirit? How should I live, to pay proper obeisance to something greater than myself? This is about: what is goodness?
It is literally impossible to engage in that exploration, while also waving gigantic foam fingers and screaming for blood. The contest itself is anti-religious, anti-spiritual. It is the same view of religion as held by those who say sports is a religion -- a mass delusion, a construct of adopted conviction only, without any of the footsteps required to get there.
The extremists are, in fact, insane. I reject them, and their crusades, their pennant fever. I'll take the uninteresting middle ground, with the skeptics, truth-seekers, and -- yes -- the truly religious.
Title is a quote from comic Brian Regan.