whistle of a soccer / football referee, free copy spaceA fan will always see things based on the color of the uniform. A catch? Were the receiver’s feet inbounds? Did a knee hit the ground? What holding — that wasn’t holding!

Facts are defined by what helps my team.

On the day after, sports talk radio thrives on the debate that is fueled by these alternate views. One caller is confident the slo-mo replay shows one thing; another sees it exactly opposite.

For three hours on game day the only thing that matters is that my team win. Everything related to the contest is seen through that prism.

When the call doesn’t go my way, the refs are biased, unfair or blind. We never get a break. When we lose on a close call, the fix was in. When we win, it is because we somehow overcame a stacked deck.

I love sports. I have always enjoyed competition, and the back-and-forth that used to characterize sportsmanship.

On the other hand, I’ve never much enjoyed being around or engaging with the fanatic who sees only the color of the uniform.

Call me naive, but I have never understood how we can embrace the violent offenders, repeat abusers, and unquestionable bad citizens as long as they help my team win.

Sure, pro sports is a business. But let’s be honest — that is a comfortable excuse. Seems like situational ethics.

In some venues winning at all costs has become the only thing that matters. And before you stop me, this is not the “winning is the only thing” that Vince Lombardi spoke of. We conveniently overlook the context of Lombardi’s comments — focus, determination, hard work and sacrifice.

Fanatic debates are good for coffee breaks and happy hours.

Until alignment with a particular team, or tribe or party predetermines the position we take in conversations that matter.

When perception is constrained by the belief that winning at any cost is what matters most…when my views are defined by what favors my team, when we’re no longer talking about a 3-hour contest between the lines, we’re not talking about fun and games anymore.

A thought: if we really care about moving the ball…if we hope to communicate with anyone other than those who already agree with us…conversations must transcend the color of the uniform.