Among the more pernicious ways to slip a meme past the defenses of the unwary is to state opinion as fact, as when debaters explain that debate, and the ability to argue either side of a proposition convincingly and with equal conviction, provides a valuable way to understand the world.
That this is preposterous is easily demonstrated: At the end of a debate, the judges declare the winner based on his or her ability to argue. Nobody declares which side of the proposition is more correct, which surely is what matters.
Except, that is, in a court of law, where the jury has to do this, knowing that, as professional debaters, there’s no point taking the sincerity of the arguers into account as they reach a verdict, as they’d have been equally sincere on the other side, if it was the other side that had hired them.
Then there’s this one: Engaging in sports when young promotes a wide variety of virtues.
I’m sure it does and, if required to take this side in a debate, could surely develop a list of convincing examples.
But while I do accept the virtues of participation, I’m pretty sure the damage done by learning to be an enthusiastic spectator more than offsets them.
Consider what young’uns learn about life from learning to root, root root for the home team:
Conformity: It isn’t as if I had a choice in becoming a Cubs and Bears fan. In Highland Park Illinois, they were the home teams and that was that.
Think this is trivial? Most people chose their religion, or, more accurately, had it chosen for them with the same level of due diligence. Among IT professionals the same is likely true for their preferred operating systems.
Kill the umpire! When I was growing up, fans screamed this innocuous phrase whenever the umpire … no, not when he made a bad call, but when he made a bad call that favored the opposing team. Bad calls that favored the Cubs were welcome, and would have been even if the Cubbies didn’t need all the help they could get.
I challenge you to read your newspaper without finding at least one example a day of the fans of one political entity deriding the findings of those officiating something or other based solely on its impact on my team, not on its merits.
Us vs Them: It’s sadly routine for the fans of one team to engage in anything from beer dumping to semi-organized combat against the fans of the opposing team.
Why would anyone think this is okay? Because in one way or another, most of us divide the world into us and them.
We’re the source of all that’s good and right with the world: We’re smart, we’re strong, we’re virtuous. We demonstrate excellent personal hygiene, and we’re snappy dressers, too. That’s in contrast to them. They’re ignorant, stupid, and too ignorant to know the difference between ignorance and stupidity. Their morals are unsavory, they smell bad, and their mothers dress them funny.
And they root for the wrong team.
Taking undeserved credit: Earlier this week I watched the Bears beat Dallas. We won! Somehow or other I felt as if I was part of the achievement. But really, as already mentioned, I can’t even take credit for deciding to root for the Bears.
When I got the family calendars to synchronize with some level of reliability, I felt like I’d accomplished something clever, too, just as I did when I installed an optical splitter on our television so we can use either the sound bar or our wireless headphones if we want to.
But really, what am I taking credit for? I had nothing to do with developing S/PDIF, engineering the television that outputs it or the optical splitter box itself, or even making it easy to find and buy on the web.
Excusing bad behavior: Fans are likely to excuse even the worst off-field (or off-court) behavior when it’s by a player on their team who scores a lot.
We’re likely to do the same for any celebrity member of the group we call us.
Armchair Quarterbacking. Yes, it’s misnamed and should be called armchair coaching, but never mind that.
What matters is how well we’ve all learned that our own expertise, gained by tirelessly watching game after game after game while drinking beer after beer after beer, exceeds that of professionals who have invested probably ten times the time, and stone cold sober time at that, studying and perfecting their trade.
Of these, my favorite is armchair coaching. But then, I’m a management consultant — clients hire me to do it. If your organization needs someone to second-guess management decisions and practices, give me a call. I’m at least as qualified to recommend what your organization should be doing as I am calling plays for the Bears.