January 22, 2015

By now I am sure you have read about the unfortunate New England Patriots “deflate-gate” debacle.  Before I start, I just want to make it completely clear that I have absolutely no dog in this fight. I’m from the teamless state of Hawai’i, thus am woefully unaligned to any pro sports team. So for all you Pats fans, please tag someone else in your hate-tweets. May I suggest whoever’s in charge of inflating your balls.

 

ESPN SPORTSNATION asked its readers a pretty straightforward question, “Do you consider the Patriots cheaters?” The results were as interesting as they were unsurprising, with 68% of voters saying “Yes,” 32% stating “No,” and of course all states in New England (except Connecticut) voted “No.”

 

 

So what gives? How is it that people can have the same facts, be given the same straightforward question, and yet there still be a divide? Well, it does in fact have to do with a love of clam chowder -- sort of.

 

People can see the same “facts,” but react entirely differently depending on their prior beliefs and in this case, sports fandom. This result has happened time and time again during our research here at m+p. Be it based on political, religious, or other beliefs participants hold core to their personal identities. No one likes facts that contradict their world view. And especially when people are emotionally invested in a point of view, facts aren’t going to get them to change their minds. People are very good at finding reasons to dismiss the “facts” when they disagree with what they already believe to be true.

 

You may ask, well, how can sports fandom override facts? Sports teams are tied to where you come from and can say a lot about you. Loyalty to your hometown sports team is loyalty to your hometown. Ask a Chicagoan, are they a Sox fan or a Cubs fan? That answer can have huge implications on how that person views themselves and how they view the opposing side.

 

This is why sports fans say things like “awesome, we’re putting 17 in” or “we shouldn’t have made that call in the 3rd quarter.” Pats fans are now saying “we’re going to the Super Bowl!” So when you say, “Do you consider the Patriots cheaters?” they hear a question with some pretty personal implications. And, the facts presented to them don’t translate the way they do with non-Pats fans.

 

So if you run into a Patriots fan, don’t try to change their mind by pointing to the “facts,” unless you’re a wicked good scrappah. If you do that, you’ll just get a Boston Crème donut shoved down your throat.

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