Biff America: Handsome vs. Stubborn (column)
December 30, 2017
"All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions."
I truly love that quote by W.B. Yeats — it's as if he is talking about every person who has ever disagreed with me. It is for that reason (and the fact that I believe that you are as likely to change someone's long-held opinion as you are to find cannabis-infused tequila at a Mike Pence Christmas party) that I don't engage in online debates.
At least that was my philosophy until 12/17/17. On that day I could no longer sit back and read the misinformation (much of it from friends and family) and remain silent.
My mate's family, by way of New York and London, hails from Pittsburgh, PA. Ellie and her sisters all made the wise choice to marry Boston men. This of course should come as no surprise, as it is common knowledge that most guys from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have the charisma of JFK with the good looks of Tom Brady. Or is it only me?
Also, as a testimonial to the savvy of Three-Rivers gals' taste in men, we happen to know a few other local couples with the same spousal geography: husband from Boston, wife from Pittsburgh.
On Dec. 17, the New England Patriots played the Pittsburgh Steelers. The texts, Facebook posts and email began good naturedly enough. It started when Karen and Steve put up a photo of their home with both a Patriots and Steelers flag out front with the caption "It's On."
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Karen, being from the Keystone State, had various family members chiming in supporting the home team and also kidding the man she married with lighthearted "deflate-gate" insults. One of Steve's family countered, "Don't hate us because we are beautiful." A Steeler fan asked, "Who's beautiful?" … "Me and Matt Damon," was the response.
It was all fun and games until the Patriots squeaked out a win due to controversial call overturning a Steelers touchdown. Jesse James caught what looked like the game-winning TD and there was much celebration in the stands and on Facebook. The Pats challenged the call and the refs deemed that James did not "survive the fall into the end zone" and the pass was incomplete.
That's when things began to get ugly. Some sank to name calling, "Cheaters, crooked refs, corrupt…" I took the high road by posting "you jus hate us cause you ain't us." Then someone suggested I learn to spell as I left the 't' off of just.
After the ad hominem attacks subsided, the debate was focused on the validity of the call overturning the touchdown. For once, online, I did not back down. For every attack of a poor call, I countered, and I really felt I was holding my own. My mate mostly stayed out of it. To be honest, neither one of us are pro sports fans; each of us could name only a handful of our home team's players. It was after one of my more impassioned defenses of the ref's decision to call back the TD, she reminded me, "How can you be so sure if it was a good call, we didn't even see it, we only listened to the game on the radio?"
She had me there. It's true we have no TV, so the few times we follow a game it is on satellite radio. So pretty much I was arguing about something of which I had absolutely no information — the refs said it was a bad catch, I wanted to believe that, so I convinced myself it was true, and I was not to be told otherwise. It's truly an embarrassing revelation that I was so adamant in my opinion with absolutely no firsthand evidence.
Certainly, the result of millionaires playing a game is the ultimate first world issue. It can't compare to the debates over climate change, health care, drug prices, tax equity, opioid abuse or the integrity of our leaders. But in truth many of us who argue about these truly crucial issues hold long-held beliefs due to what someone tells us from a news source with a vested interest.
The nation is as divided as it has ever been in my lifetime. I would say the reason for this is because there is profit in division. But I would also say the fact is that many of us echo others' opinions rather than reaching our own through thoughtful deliberation and unbiased information. Getting the facts and reaching an educated conclusion is not rocket science… heck, even a Steelers fan could do it…. Just KIDDING!!!
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff's new book "Mind, Body, Soul." is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul