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Slow Thinking: Blind loyalty should be confined to sports

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013

Being a New York Yankees fan is something that came with my upbringing. Growing up in western New York during the 1950s and ‘60s, I was surrounded by Yankee fans, including most of my family and friends. And with the way the Yankees won during those years, what was not to like? So I became a Yankee fan by a process that seemed as natural as osmosis.

It is funny how sports loyalties go. They regularly last a lifetime, enduring all kinds of trials and tribulations. We diehards hang in there even when we don’t much like the team’s players, managers or owners.

The blindness of my loyalty to the Yankees is something I was forced for face for years. Through three-plus decades when the franchise was run by the late George Steinbrenner, the Yankees were operated in a manner that I found obnoxious and even offensive. Steinbrenner publicly humiliated Yankee managers such as Billy Martin, Dick Howser and Yogi Berra, as well as storied players like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Thurman Munson and Dave Winfield. Despite the owner’s outrageousness and all the melodrama it caused, however, I never wavered in supporting the team. After all, I was a Yankee fan.

I must admit to deriving some strange pleasure from my blind loyalty to the team. The dark days of George Steinbrenner’s reign of terror were tough, but I got through them and have since gone on as a Yankee fan, carrying with me the satisfaction that comes from lifelong commitment. It takes on the feeling of fulfillment of identity: cradle to grave, a Yankee fan I am.

It is not so innocent, though, when a craving to be blindly loyal, or to fulfill an identity, is satisfied by supporting a political party in the way I have supported the New York Yankees. Sports are mere recreation and do not impact our community interests in any meaningful way. Blind loyalty to a sports team harms nobody.

Blind loyalty to a political party, on the other hand, involves abdicating one’s responsibility as a citizen to uphold the best interests of our community and country. When considering what policies are correct, or whom to vote for, we all need to put aside loyalties to parties, ideologies and interest groups, and look carefully and critically at the policies and the candidates. Even if you have thought of yourself as a Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal, when you are considering what is best for your community and country, you should rise above such labels and biases and be guided exclusively by the best interests of our community.

We cannot afford to approach our civic duty of voting with the mindset of sports fans blindly loyal to their teams. Contrary to what some say, politics is not a sport. The programs and policies we embrace, and the persons we elect, have grave consequences for all of us. Save the blind loyalty for the playing fields, where our community’s values and fortunes are not at stake.

Len Colamarino has resided in Atascadero since January 2005, after having practiced international business law in New York for almost 30 years. He ran for Atascadero City Council in 2008 and has served on the Atascadero Planning Commission since February 2009.

For the complete article see the 10-05-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-05-2012 paper.

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