A tweet from philosopher Alain de Botton – or for him, an aphorism – sparked a thought that fits in the discussion of sports and tribalism. He wrote:
Insult based around gender, race and class is firmly out, but we still refuse the logical next step: nastiness per se isn’t OK.
A dueling piano bar recently opened up in my city. All these places are the same. They make a lot of their money by shit-talking sports teams and colleges. In my area, drunk K-State fans and grads battle drunk KU fans and grads with some one-upmanship coming from drunk Sooners and drunk Longhorns just to make things interesting. But it struck me that this is an expression of insults that are socially acceptable. You couldn’t get up there and pay the pianist to harass gays, straights, blacks, whites, Muslims, or Christians, but you can rag on colleges and sports teams all day long. Identification with a sports team or a college is not the same as a fundamental racial or cultural identity, but, as de Botton touches on, the purpose is the same. When certain roads are blocked from us we find new ones. The resulting nastiness is a watered-down version, but it still arises from the same basic drive.