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From the Executive Director: It’s Not Always a Big Game

By February 9, 2024July 8th, 2024No Comments

David Inoue

Once a year, it seems even the casual observer who never follows sports otherwise suddenly wants to watch “The Game.” Of course, “The Game” has a different meaning for me and my fellow Ohio State alumni. This year, it has been made even more ridiculous with the parallel story line of the romance between Kansas City football player Travis Kelce and pop superstar Taylor Swift. Even the Japanese Embassy got into the act with a public statement affirming the likelihood that Swift would be able to make it to the game despite a concert in Tokyo the night before. For anyone who has ever flown from Tokyo to the West Coast, it was blatantly obvious this wouldn’t be a problem given the time travel that happens when flying back from Japan and actually arriving before the departure time.

At its best, sports serves as an escape from reality for a while, cheating on one’s team because they represent the city you grew up in, yes, I remain a steadfast Bengals fan despite so many years of disappointment. Or, perhaps it is the college that you attended, as with my Ohio State Buckeyes, though I’ve actually been paying more attention to the Cornell basketball team, which could make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010. Undergraduate experiences seem to engender greater loyalty than graduate school.

Usually following one’s team, and the accompanying rivalries with other cities or schools, is all done in fun. I may joke that I hate that school up north (Michigan), but in reality, there’s a lot of respect, and at the end of the day, we know it’s a game, lower case “g,” and we move on with our lives.

Unfortunately, sometimes the tribalism takes over. It’s not unheard of for fans to get into fights in the parking lot after a game, sometimes ending in tragedy. Unfortunately, our politics are increasingly becoming like combat sports, with winner-take-all goals.

Rather than seeking to govern, politicians only care about winning the election, and frighteningly, winning so they can then inflict damage to their opponents, or perhaps better described as their enemies.

Former President Trump has been increasingly making clear threats to those who might oppose him, cowering even his fellow Republicans to support him lest he win the election and be able to mete out punishment to anyone he sees as an enemy. Within the party, he is already able to exert such influence through endorsements or turning of the fundraising spigot to candidates that cross him.

We need to recognize that this is not how our political system should be operating. Even in sports, after a victor is decided, even in a sport as violent and antagonistic as hockey often is, there is a team handshake at the end, a recognition of the fact that while it is a contest with a winner, the game has ended, and life moves on.

In government, this has been where the politics end, and the governing begins. Rather than trying not to give the other side a win, politicians today are extending the game outside the game time. What should be a time of positive work in the political “off-season” is now an overtime period to bridge to the next season, which seems to actually begin now as soon as the last election ends.

We are finding ourselves in perpetual crisis because Congress cannot function to pass even a regular spending bill on time. Compromise to pass some sort of immigration legislation has failed because of concerns that passage might help the other side in the upcoming elections. Perhaps competence on both sides would help both Democrats AND Republicans get re-elected?

We need to stop seeing ourselves in a perpetual game competition. After the election ends and the winners determined, we need to shake hands and realize that we are all playing on the same team, Last I checked, we are still the UNITED States of America.

David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.