Starbucks Log: Oily Contagion

Log entry: Tired people but basically happy people are ambling into the coffee shop today…what with the Oilers living to fight another day…and fans living to do what they do.

The young Chinese man that served me is seemingly oblivious to the weight of identification we have with the Oilers.

Speaking of identification, not having followed the regular season, I was surprised at the disappointment I felt at the Oiler loss the other night at Rexall. And equally surprised at my own excitement when Pisani scored the overtime goal last night, shorthanded goal to-boot.

At the time, I was at church. There was a celebration in honour of the High School grads, my son being one. The youth pastor was passionately engaged in giving some final commendations and exhortations to the grads and to us parents when we heard the yell. The church's assistant pastor and a friend were watching the game in a back office. The friend appeared at the door and gave the thumbs up. People cheered, …and the youth pastor went on to conclude.

What is it about sports that animates us to the point of giddy obsession? In some cases, violent obsession?

One caller to a radio show this morning reported the scene in the pub he was at last night. Everyone stood, doffed their caps, and sang the national anthem. The radio announcer effused, "So nationalism is cool again!"

I suspect it's a pretty thin nationalistic veneer. Still, how does this work? What's the principle involved?

Is the socio-cultural phenomenon at work here group identification? Is our group adhesion a contagion? If there were no other groups, or teams, or nations, would there still be any kind of group cohesion? That is, does the bonding of one group depend almost entirely on the existence of other groups? And if so, what does this tell us about ourselves? Is group competition, something that can be good-natured and self-revealing, also something that can too readily slip into gang rivalry or virulent nationalism? Is this one of the fallen principalities St. Paul talked about?

Finally does this understanding, if it is an understanding, of identifying ourselves with some group, abstract or otherwise, keep alive our propensity of segmenting people, and, does this have any bearing on how treat and care for people? Just pondering.

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