Your Side is Your Identity

Many years ago, in the late nineties, I was at an afternoon Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park. The Yankees won, and a young Yankee fan was gloating and taunting a group of Red Sox fans. One of the Red Sox fans, rewarded this young Yankee fan by putting him in a headlock and bashing his face in so that he was bleeding from the mouth and nose. Security was on the scene quickly, not quickly enough to prevent the beating, but quickly enough to keep it from escalating further. The Red Sox fan was led away from Fenway Park in handcuffs, and security tended to the Yankee fan who was obviously hurt and shaken up.


Did the Yankee fan receive karmic retribution for acting like he did? Was the Red Sox fan justified in his response to taunting? How you answer might be colored by which team you root for. A highly partisan Red Sox fan defined by his fandom might say that it serves the Yankee fan right for acting the way he did. In other words, a victim of violence was asking for it. We see this when sports brawls break out…a fan will always assign blame to the other team, and in politics, the other side is always acting unfairly.


That is because what we believe is part of our identity. Being a fan, of either a sports team, a political party, or a political figure is a fundamental part of who we are. Any challenge to that thing we identify with feels like a personal attack. As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I still react when someone wears a Yankees cap…I’m working on it, though.


Here in the USA, vote totals are being counted and finalized, amid the threat of violence and lawsuits galore. At least the Red Sox had security on hand to deescalate the situation. Also, and the manager did not openly refuse to acknowledge the score, nor did he welcome violence against Yankee fans over the PA system.


Red Sox-Yankees games are always intense. The fans take the rivalry incredibly seriously, and it often always feels like the rivalry could spill over into the type of violence I saw that afternoon at Fenway Park. I was with a roommate that afternoon who happened to be a Yankee fan and refused to wear Yankee gear in case this kind of thing happened. We both agreed there was no need for a fistfight. But to that one Red Sox fan, it seemed incredibly important to use force to make his point. This is the way politics feels right now. But the stakes are higher. At Fenway Park we were all baseball fans trying to enjoy a game. Some people just need and realize that we’re all Americans, too, even if you don’t like the outcome of people exercising their right to vote.

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