Thought for the Day: 12 September 2015

Way back in the 1980s, while driving around town to deliver lectures deploring the lack of political awareness among the comatose masses, MIT professor Noam Chomsky stumbled across sports talk on his car radio. He marveled at the deep knowledge and intelligence that Chuckie in Attleboro or Gladys in Melrose brought to bear on their favorite teams and players. After all, these were the same ordinary Americans whose talk about international affairs or domestic problems Chomsky considered “at a level of superficiality that’s beyond belief.” Yet callers to sports radio, Noam in Cambridge realized, “have their own opinion and they conduct intelligent discussions. It’s an interesting phenomenon. I don’t think that international affairs or domestic politics are much more complicated.”

In other words, if people applied the same intelligent scrutiny and research to public policy questions as they did to sports, Team USA might be doing a whole lot better. Chomsky concluded that Americans don’t apply their sports smarts and passion to politics and public policy because they don’t believe it will change anything; they feel they might as well focus on something fun.

– from Garry Emmons, “Sports Superfans, Deflategate Obsession and America’s Collective I.Q.