Thursday, May 12, 2005

Transcending the teammate tripe

No, not those Teammates

You know what makes the world go 'round?

No, it's not money. And it's not drugs or booze. And it's not peace or war, really. And it's not fast cars. And it's not even Cristian Guzman. And, no, it isn't even . . uh, prurient interests.

It's our ability to associate. It's our innate desire to make teams, to gather teammates---and to bludgeon the fools on the other team.

WHO'S WITH ME HERE?! (Ha ha; I'm just kidding.)

Of course, maybe my parenthetical expression isn't such a throw-away. Irrational teammaking is one of my pet peeves; if you say it's no big deal, I'm going to tell you---kindly, I hope---that you're wrong. If someone comes to my defense, I will feel emboldened.

But, call me a hypocrite, because I'm carrying on here. My position stated above is probably why I hate politics as anything other than a detached form of entertainment. During my adult years, people have accused me of an inability to take sides (see?), of a desire not to make broad choices (see?), and---here in central Virginia---something even worse: of being a Democrat! But I just have no desire to commit myself to broad, sweeping parties. Or teams, you might say. I don't like the concessions entailed with such a choice. I don't particularly like what many people do after making such a choice. And so, I won't make such a choice.

Perhaps this aversion is why I've tended to gravitate, throughout law school and now as a professional, toward courts and away from private law firms. At least as an employee of the judiciary, I can convince myself that I look at things as objectively as possible.

I should clarify. Strawman attacks like those above notwithstanding (again: "a Democrat?!"), I do make choices and decisions. And I do make evaluations based on the opinions and expertise of others. And, who am I kidding, I cannot disavow identifying with certain "teams" on certain issues.

But, when I ponder it, I don't like it. Knee-jerking toward a preconceived point of view shouldn't be a default setting.

And so we get, finally, to the genesis of my post. Earlier, Chris at Capitol Punishment noted a post on, which broadly evaluated the support at the gate so far for the Nats. I commend you to read both Martin Austermuhle's post and Chris's short evaluation.

More so, though, I encourage you to look at the comments corresponding to Chris's post.

First, Austermuhle responded and clarified, in a civil manner, that he is not "anti-Nats." That's fine; if he were, that would be his right, too. Anyway, Austermuhle then moved on to question the famed (infamous?) stadium deal:

I think it's fair, though, to question the process undertaken by the city to acquire the team. I still disagree with building a new stadium, and I still think Mayor Williams roled over for MLB's owners. The more the news comes out the more it becomes apparent that the city will end up paying a lot for this stadium. Yes, the city is doing fine now, but seeing that stadium rarely have the positive economic impact that their boosters claim, it's prudent to ask whether this is the type of long-term investment the city wants to make right now.

This is, of course, a reasonable take. Some may say his reliance on what I'll call "economic conventional wisdom" (though certainly supported by statistical evidence of some quality) is short-sighted; some may claim it's plainly wrong; some others may even say it's a pretext for obstructionism.

But it's reasonable, in my estimation, and the question he asks is certainly relevant. Austermuhle then ponders who the team's fans are (i.e., District residents versus surburbanites).

Then Chris responded.

Now, I believe Chris is at a certain advantage. I don't know who Mr. Austermuhle is; a journalist, maybe? He probably knows the situation. I think I know Chris pretty well, though---at least, I think he have a gauge, via reading his posts and participating in discussions with him, how thoroughly he thinks about Nats-related issues. Trust me, it's thorough.

His blog far outdates this one's existence, and if I recollect correctly, he blogged right through the stadium debate(s). At the very least, he's a "blogging authority." By that, I mean he may not be a professional or even journalistic authority on all given issues, but he's familiar with all positions on most or all issues sheerly be a) keeping up and b) thinking critically.

I'm usually pretty dismissive of blogging, even as I participate, but I believe the above is true---especially for this team. The process is like briefing an issue of The Wall Street Journal, five days a week or so.

At the risk of sounding like a "teammate," allow me to point out one other thing before I get to Chris's reply: as a blogger, you are allowed to evaluate all positions. You might find some persuasive and some bunk; you might find some compelling and set them aside to evaluate later. You're "your own boss," as the saying goes, and you can accept principles and arguments on your own time. This is a valuable opportunity, I believe.

Okay; now his response. I won't quote it all; in fact, I'll just quote the most relevant part. Keep in mind I'm not "evaluating" it, or even "agreeing" with it (though I might find points of agreement); I'm simply citing it as an example of transcending "teams."

I won't comment here on the politics of the stadium. I've tried to stay out of the political questions surrounding it. I'm certainly not a fan of gov't subsidies for these things, but I'm open-minded that the influx of revenue from VA and MD could make this the exception to the rule.

This is, of course, an approach an enterprising economist would or should take. What are the established rules of the game? How could this situation be different? Would the differences make any "difference" in the long-run? This is what economists . . . well, I'm not an economist, so I shouldn't speak for the profession; this is what someone smart should be saying about the DC stadium deal, as a starting point. I'm fans of several sports economists (e.g., Zimbalist, Noll, and Fort, just to name three), but I haven't really seen any of them give the issue its just due yet. Maybe it's because the situation is still rather fluid, at least in terms of the details.

More broadly, I appreciate what Chris did. He took a statement by Austermuhle that implied a "division of teams" ("pro-stadium and anti-stadium, public-funding"), and reframed the discussion. I'm not saying that Austermuhle's comment was in any way antagonistic, but Chris defused any possibility of the same, strident, tired debates.

Chris followed along with his points, fairly made. And Austermuhle came back and, to his credit, acknowledged the fair points Chris made, then advanced the issue. It's a good thread, as a result.

Look, I'm not scoring a debate or a manners class here. (Or judging a grammar rodeo, either!) Instead, I'm (hopefully) amplifying an important point. We can disagree, but we can do so fairly. We can disagree, but we can find common ground. We can disagree, but discussing our differences while shedding the burden of preconceived hostilities, we can forge better understanding---and better knowledge.

What's the alternative? Check out the comments thread following the DCist post. Poor Wm. Yurasko, fighting the good fight.

K - I'm going to disagree with you here. Cristian Guzman definitely makes the world go 'round. Or maybe it's booze...
Usually, Cristian Guzman leads me to booze, which makes the world go rou - oh hell, spin furiously ...

Basil: As the Aussies say, "good on you."
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