Zach's PEN #7: Booing My Own Team

2020 Week 38

Hello PENpals,

Do you know why Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love?

Need a hint?

It's not a nickname.


It's a translation. The word "Philadelphia" means "brotherly love." LEARNING IS FUN (also this PEN's a doozy and as political as can be so apologies in advance, just archive and wait until next week seriously).

Allison and I arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday for the final lap of the parade of HVAC and electric and plumbing and painters and carpenters and spiral staircasers and appraisers. Today, our furniture was arranged and several quadrillions of boxes were overturned. Now we just need to pick up all the stuff that fell out and put it where it goes.

We slept in our own bed last night and it would have been glorious, and mostly was, except I had trouble getting to sleep because...

I got the Ruth Bader Ginsburg news.

And then I did what probably every other politically-engaged left-of-center person in the country did and started counting in my head: "Murkowski, Romney, maybe Collins..." and this is where the list stops and you know you need a fourth and then... well... then you just get really angry.

Here's the thing: I disagree vehemently with those who think XX chromosomal humans, whose bodies have been assigned by millions of years of evolution and a coin flip with pregnancy capability (which often sucksand can mess up all kinds of things medically, economically, the list goes on), should, immediately upon getting pregnant, become slaves, surveilled by the state as nothing more than incubators for whatever is inside, whether unwanted, planned, or forced upon them. I think that sounds like one of the most inhuman dystopian nightmares I can imagine. On a scale of moral depravity, an anti-choice government is well past murder for me. It's in the slavery/rape/torture zone of Terrible Things Humans Come Up With.

In this representative democracy, there are many people who are not like me and who think abortion should be regulated and restricted. Then there's a very loud and very small minority who think that abortion is murder (unless it's their mistress or their 15-year-old daughter). And then there's a very teensy tiny little minority who actually believe it's real-life murder. Like murdering a person.

For me, the issue was settled the first moment I was told what abortion was. It sounded to me like a really hard thing women have to deal with, not me, and so they can deal with it how they want to deal with it, having nothing whatever to do with me.

To be clear, even if I did for some superstitious or pedantic reason think that abortion was like murdering a person, it wouldn't change my opinion on choice at all, because the dystopian nightmare of an anti-choice government, enslavement and torture, is clearly morally worse than murder. If someone claims to not agree with this, they probably have never curiously considered whether they'd rather be enslaved and tortured or just killed.

Anyway, like I said, there are a lot of people who disagree with me, and actually most people are uncomfortable with zero restriction on abortion (I mean, most of us can agree that we wouldn't call this a "comfortable and uncomplicated subject"), so we do the democracy thing and we follow precedent and we try to play by the rules and hope that our team wins, and then...

Mitch McConnell decides it's cool to not play by the rules and to steal a Supreme Court seat and then now he wants to do it again in the exact way he said you shouldn't do it the first time, and why does the stupid system work this way anyway, and so here I am unable to sleep, angry about some moldy yogurt named Mitch McConnell that my heart is beating hard and fast and, speaking of murder, I'm feeling rage: blind, red rage—

I don't like feeling this way. I don't think it's particularly useful to feel this way. I also don't have any control over Mitch McConnell or any of the people who are on his team and who think that what he's doing is awesome, some of whom are people I love…

So I feel the rage, notice it, acknowledge it, take a few deep breaths, notice what else is here. I listen to a John Roderick podcast to calm my nerves, eat some ice cream.

There's a game being played here, and the stakes are high, and it's called American politics, and Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are pretty bad at it, but unfortunately my team (whether I like it or not), the Democrats, are much, much worse at it. They suuuuuck at politics.

This reminds me of one of the reasons I most love Philadelphia, which happens to be one of the reasons many in the country look down on Philadelphia: We will straight up boo our own sports teams. Without hesitation.

In America, like much of the world, a large, disproportionately-male percentage of us identify heavily with our sports teams. Sports is a healthy outlet for a lot of ugly human behavior that used to be part of daily life, like war and looting and burning villages and whatnot. The tribal instinct is built into us socially, and sports provide a great, (ideally) harmless place to channel that energy. Also it's beautiful performance art.

But people make fun of Philly fans because we boo our teams. They say we should "support the team no matter what," to which we say "Fuck off. We aresupporting the team. They suck, and this is us, voicing our support. BOOOOO..." And yes, sometimes when they lose, we might even say "You deserved thatNow get your shit together."

There are at least four reasons why this is the best way to truly support your team as a fan when they are sucking.

  • First, your team needs to be made aware that they are sucking so that they can take action to stop sucking, such as changing players or strategies.
  • Second, you don't have control over anything but yourself in this world. It's comically absurd to blame anyone other than yourself for sucking. You can't blame the other team who is beating you, or the weather, or the turf (sometimes you can blame the refs but you’re still a loser).
  • Third, we, the fans, are not on the team. We don't have the contract. We don't get to call the plays. We are relying on our team to play well. We can’t play the game for them.
  • Fourth, and this is my favorite reason: Booing is honesty, and there's no healthy relationship without honesty. Philadelphia is a city without pretense. When you've hurt us, we'll let you know. When we're happy with you, we will burn this place to the ground in honor of you. Passivity and mendacity do not encourage winning. They encourage sucking. We must honor our feelings.

So you may think Philly fans are heathens for booing our own squads. But we love them, and we love them more than you do, and you don't get to tell us how to love them.

Last night, driving through Center City (our word for "downtown") in search of ice cream, we passed by Independence Hall. This whole country was started by people booing their own team. Some of the embers that led to the American Civil War started as sparks from abolitionists like my relative son’s namesake, Wendell Phillips, who shouted from lecterns across the country that America sucks. That the whole republic is so tainted by slavery that we should just tear it all down. Dissolve the whole damned thing...

I root for the Democrats and the Democrats suck. They've sucked for a long time. They haven't won shit for America in my entire lifetime, in fact. They’ve just let the Republicans and the corporate interests of the country run all over them, occasionally saying "c’mon guys that’s a little too greedy isn’t it?" and getting ineffectual, means-tested, unpopular scraps while all of the wealth consolidates into like 6 family fortunes. They've been complicit in most of it, and yes, as the team ostensibly "for the people," and because they are myteam, I naturally blame the Democrats for everything. They are why we have Trump. They are why people don't vote. They are why people don't trust institutions in the first place. They suck.

When my team puts up unpopular candidates, when my team advocates for unpopular policies while denying support for popular ones, when my team uses substance-free political tactics rather than firing up millions with an actual plan for how to stop the destruction of their lives (and maybe even make life better?), I boo them.

When I hear them blaming the other team for beating us, I hear whining 4-year-olds. When they blame racism, or sexism, or Russia, I hear them blaming the wind for blowing the wrong way. It's at best masturbatory, self-soothing pablum.

This is the field. This is the game. There is racism. There is sexism. You get bad breaks here and there, but guess what? You still gotta win. The stakes are too high for you not to win. And you can beat these scumbags. Their voters think they suck too. That's why they've lost complete control over who they vote for.

So do better. Win the votes.

Blaming voters and coercing them through shame makes you look and sound like an abusive, codependent parent. Stop telling people to vote for you. Start telling them what you're going to do for them.

Go Biden. Go Birds. RBG you picked a hell of a time to do this. Mitch McConnell, you will die alone having never experienced a moment of genuine concern for another human being, and in the end, every anti-democratic thing you have vomited from the abyss of your rotten soul will be destroyed anyway, and you will be remembered only as a disturbing asshole who disturbingly resembled a disturbed turtle.

But you do you, boo. I'm going to focus on my team, and making my team better.

Much love, PENpals, no matter how you root for your team,


P. S. I've followed politics very closely for a very long time, and I remember clear as day the moment when Joe Biden said, out of turn, in one of his patented "gaffes," that gay people should be able to get married. It was a big issue for me, and a big moment. He was by far the highest ranking person ever to say it openly. Biden's honesty is his superpower. While I'm so disappointed that the Biden campaign has been 0% substance and I think they're taking a massively stupid risk by putting all of their eggs in the suburban white women basket… Joe Biden is a real person, a good person, and I believe he can win this election and maybe even win America something. But we gotta stay on him. This is the way.

P. P. S. If you don’t unsubscribe after this one but you really don’t want the politics stuff, I'll eventually give you a button to push so all politics will be left out of PENs... Just haven't had time to implement it yet. Been a little busy.

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