I wish I could tell you who said it, but last week I read someone—someone famous—said he thought having a favorite football team was one of the best life lessons there is. It was a Brit who said it, so when I write football, I mean soccer.
Loving a football team is a large life lesson in losing. It teaches us about disappointment.
And, oh, the exuberance when they win. The clan celebration, boisterous cheering, the singing.
I’ve been in pubs when the game is on and one can only say that the place is heaving. The walls swell when the local’s team scores a goal. They constrict and suck all the air from the room when the opponents do.
Once, in a nursing home I was touring with my Czech colleagues and the nuns of St. Elizabeth, we lost Martin, their boss and and my friend. We were chatting with residents about relatives in America, admiring the sweaters still on the needles they were knitting for grandchildren. Later on we found Martin sitting beside one of the few elderly men there, both of them glued to the soccer game playing on the small TV at the foot of the bed.
Teams are patriotic. The night we were with the nuns the Czech Republic soccer team was playing another country in some big match up. But teams are familial, too. Loyalties are passed down from father to son, generations worth, and grown men strut down the pub in garish scarves, not caring they look about twelve years old.
In fact, it’s charming.
I think about this as the day after Election Day dawns. Some mornings in the past I have awakened early, happy in the results. Some mornings I have awakened disappointed. There was a time when we allowed ourselves a few days to mope, but then Thanksgiving is on its way, Christmas, and we commiserated with each other, but only briefly. And privately. We coped.
My mother loved politics, had grown up spending every Saturday night with her parents as guests of my great-aunt Georgie and Uncle Jim. Dinner conversation was a back and forth politician argument between my grandfather and his sister—she a capital D Democrat, he of the GOP persuasion. Politics was served up along side the mashed potatoes, and Mother remembered it was lively, heated at times.
And yet, at the end of the evening cheeks were kissed, hugs passed around, thanks given for the meal and plans made for next Saturday night.
Perhaps the stakes are higher now. This is what we have been told. This past election has been touted as “The Most Important Election of Our Time.” Well, aren’t they all? I mean, really, don’t we hear that almost every election cycle?
I get it. Maybe this election was the most important. But I think how we react to it is equally important. How we move forward is critical. I don’t see much hope for civility, so I try to channel my Aunt Georgie ginning around all Saturday afternoon so everything is perfect and inviting when she and Small, my grandfather, go hammer and tongs.
In fact, a good debate helps clarify our own views, exposes the chinks in our own logic, and opens up a path for mutual agreement and consensus. I can’t imagine it in this environment.
But I wish it were so. My grandfather and his sister surely loved a good match of mental fisticuffs. And each surely held their beliefs and political leanings quite firmly, and weren’t afraid to say so. I think, also, they surely must have respected each other, knew that people are different, want the same things—or don’t—and compromise is almost always the only path forward.
It may be too much to ask for; civility and thoughtful debate, when civility seems almost nonexistent and nuance seems lost and beside the point. But surely we can try. Spitting into the wind, perhaps, but how else will we fix things, all the messes we have made?