Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Happy birthday to 3 friends in San Francisco this week: David, Harmon and Stuart. May you live to 120 in health and radical amazement.

Want to create an animated discussion anywhere in the country this weekend? Ask the following question:

Besides the fact that they happened to have concluded the same week, what do elections and the World Series have in common?

I can think of a few things....

- They both result in winners and losers
- Winners rejoice and losers feel bad
- Some people work themselves into a frenzy over them, while others yawn.

Q2: But why the frenzy, why the yawn?

I'll be interested to hear what answers you get from the Table.

It seems to me that the common denominator is that in both cases, some people feel that the outcome is terribly important, while others feel that the outcome will not affect their lives too much.

And what's really interesting is how people who are passionate (about baseball or politics) can't really understand why anyone could be apathetic, yet the apathetic folks can't understand why anyone could be so passionate about something that "doesn't really matter".

This failure to communicate leads us to Q3:

Does passion around a contest REQUIRE that there always be winners and losers? Is there any way to choose leaders or to enjoy baseball without making half the participants feel like losers? And even if there is such a way, would that necessarily be desirable?

(Soapbox alert: I ordinarily like to leave these questions open, but some people always ask for MY answers....)

Here's what I'm thinking on this issue. In both politics and sports, during the process our news media have for some reason always focused on the outcomes rather than the substance.

Think, for example, is how much we have heard in the weeks leading up to the election about what the polls are saying. I ask you: how does reporting on polling assist the democratic process one iota? Should I cast my vote based on the polling? Or should I vote based on issues? If the latter, then I need to hear as much reporting as time will allow on the issues. Hearing the latest polling data may help the candidates, but it doesn't help the voters. Yet the pollsters have somehow wrested control of the news.

Moreover, in races that technically have more than 2 candidates, the news media routinely ignore minor-party candidates. They would rather portray a race as a simple 2-person match than a more complex dialog that it really is. This is because they want to make their reporting as sensational and entertaining as possible, and complex issues require the hardest of human efforts, thinking.

Sports are the same - the entire media focus leading up to and during the World Series is on forecasting the outcome - “Who's going to win?” as opposed to helping the public appreciate the beauty of the game and the skill of the players.

Perhaps if our news media shifted their focus to substance rather than winning and losing, both politics and baseball would create fewer "losers" and enjoy more people participating in and sharing the pleasure of the game.

Shabbat Shalom

PS – speaking of grappling with issues of passion, check out this innovative new book on Israel:

PPS – here’s a video of the SF victory parade:

Shabbat Shalom

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