Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Individualists of the World, Unite!

Now that the Heterosexual Oscars are over, many Colts fans are in deep mourning. Such is life -- you can't have a winner without a loser, or many losers. At alicublog Roy Edroso reports on rightbloggers' reactions to the big game, and quotes one Troy Nelson:
What happened to the days of pulling for organizations, teams, and players whom [sic!] best demonstrate the virtues of team work and heart and will power? Who overcome the challenges of a determined opponent on the level playing field of competition? Of blood, sweat, and tears? I guess in our coddled, emasculated, socialist society any overt demonstration or celebration of these qualities is offensive, too Darwinian, too Randian, too capitalistic.
Ah yes, professional sports are certainly capitalistic, with the heroic players working for the Ellsworth Tooheys of America. But "Darwinian"? I thought good conservatives repudiated Darwin. What the Creationist/Intelligent Design take on team sports would be I don't know. "Randian"? Ayneleh was apparently ambivalent at best about Darwin. I'm not sure what she would have thought of the Superbowl -- surely it would have been too corporate for her, though she never let herself be hobbled by consistency -- but one of her disciples assures the faithful that "no guilt is called for, because watching sports satisfies a vital human need." And this acolyte somehow manages to turn subordination and sacrifice in the service of the group into selfishness and self-glorification; that's fundamentalism for you, which manages to interpret a text until it means its opposite. (Not all Objectivists agree, however.)

That is why the economist John Kenneth Galbraith took on the subject years ago:
I once wrote a piece of which I was at the time very proud (I maybe shouldn't go back and read it again), arguing somewhat ironically that socialism in the United States was the result of organized sports. It takes people at a vulnerable age and makes teamwork, more than individual work, the thing. It subjects people to the authority of the team captain or the coach, and as I say, this is at an age where people are vulnerable. And therefore, team sports are the breeding grounds for socialism and must be watched very carefully. And I had an organization in the piece -- this ran in Harper's -- called "the CIA": the Congress for Individualist Athletics. It was written under a pseudonym because I was then an ambassador, I couldn't write under my own name. One day the postman struggled into my room at Harvard with a pile of letters this thick that had been sent on from Harper's from people who, well, they fell into three classes:
  • people who wanted to know whether it was real or not;
  • people who wanted to join; and
  • people who demanded that I exclude baseball from the list because baseball is not, as they said, a "socialist" sport: when you're up at bat, you're on your own.
Well, it's an example of the dangers of using irony. Under the best of circumstances, many people are going to take it seriously.