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Friday, November 16, 2007

Tribalism and baseball (11/11/07)

I just saw an inspiring documentary film called War/Dance about healing trauma in wartorn Uganda with music and dance. Though it has nothing to do with sports, the movie rang some Joy of Sox bells that are worth reflecting on. So this post will be more about sociology and anthropology than energy medicine, but it will expand on an important idea from the last post. Briefly, the movie tells the story of a primary school in northern Uganda that enters the national music competition despite the fact that all its students live in a war resettlement camp and have been emotionally scarred by random waves of violence inflicted by marauding rebel fighters. The movie shows how music can literally lift people beyond their suffering, and bind people together into a cohesive group with great healing powers. For more info, go to www.wardancethemovie.com

What most impressed me was the resiliency of the kids, and how they were sustained by their village connections, their tribal identity, and the joy that the music and dance so powerfully elicited in them (and in us, the viewers). In the audience discussion that followed the screening, several people reflected on how we suburbanites experience nostalgia for the deep interconnection that the “primitive” villagers take as a given, even when they’ve been uprooted from their villages to live in a resettlement camp. In other words, belonging to a tribe can be deeply nurturing. And that’s the link to Joy of Sox – rooting for a sports team is our modern version of tribal identity. For many people in our hyper-individualized society, their most passionate identification is with their sports team(s), rather than their neighborhood, city, political party, religious denomination, employer, etc.

The whole concept of a “Red Sox Nation” is a riff on this sort of tribal label, though it’s getting to be fueled more by marketing than by genuine emotion. The omnipresent tee shirts and bumper stickers let everyone know which band we belong to. Sadly, the energy that tribal identification elicits is usually one of rivalry, aggression and humiliation. For the RSN tribe, the Yankees playing the convenient role of rival tribe (ie, “Yankees Suck!”). There was only a muted undertone of these negative emotions in Uganda, with the Northern province’s representatives being somewhat snubbed for being poor and displaced. But there was no overt shaming or ridicule; rather, it was mutual respect and admiration (and fear) among the school children.

The same respect is possible in baseball, though it’s rare. Sox fans were unanimous in describing how respectfully they were treated when they traveled to St. Louis for two road games during the 2004 Worlds Series, where the Cardinals’ management allowed Sox fans to linger on foreign turf for their post-game victory celebration. The same thing happened in Denver this year. Sadly, Red Sox fans on the road are getting a reputation for being obnosiously self-centered. At least those midwestern fans appreciated and respected the game more so than who actually won or lost. Perhaps that’s a higher octave of tribalism – to have love of the game (the art, the species) count for more than the specific outcome of any given contest. Maybe that’s the next stage in human evolution - we’re certainly not there yet.


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The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention is produced by 2 Cousins Productions and Pinch Hit Productions. © 2006 The Joy of Sox Movie LLC. For more information, contact info@thejoyofsoxmovie.com.

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