On Nov. 8, I got two notifications on my phone.
“Donald Trump will win the White House, making him the 45th US President”, one read.
“Sharks beat Capitals 3-0”, said the other.
Since that Tuesday evening, nothing about the political climate in the United States has felt the same. Words such as “wall,” “ban” and “deportation” now plague the minds of our vast immigrant population. People are flocking to doctors’ offices in anticipation of the Affordable Care Act being repealed. The streets of Berkeley, Oakland and so many other towns across the U.S. echo the chants of protesters, proclaiming “not my president”.
And yet, despite all of this turmoil, despite anger, disappointment and fear, the sports world just keeps on turning. The Browns still have not won a game this season. The Cavs are still leading the Eastern Conference (and LeBron is still the reason). Had the election not just happened, the biggest news in many people’s worlds this week may have been that Jared Goff finally made a start for the Rams.
But it did happen, and for so many Americans, the results have necessitated a method of coping. I personally have always seen sports as an outlet. When I’m feeling stressed, I pull up a video of the last out of the 2012 NLCS, which shows Marco Scutaro getting giddily doused by rain after the Giants had just earned a spot in the World Series. Or, I watch Carly Patterson’s floor routine during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, which solidified her all-around gold medal in gymnastics. I watch these videos knowing that the Giants will advance to the World Series, that Carly Patterson will win the gold, and yet I go back to them so often, even if not for more than the sake of distraction.
The NFL’s ratings the weekend after the election may serve as proof that I am not the only one for whom this is the case. The Sunday afternoon matchup between the Steelers and the Cowboys drew the highest ratings of any NFL game this season, and the night game between the Seahawks and the Patriots was the highest-rated primetime game all season. It’s no question that these are objectively good matchups between highly-touted teams, but in a year when we’ve heard so much about ratings being down, it’s hard not to speculate that there is some degree of causation there.
This could shed some light on why those ratings were down in the first place. Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem has undoubtedly politicized sports. Whether you agree with the protest’s message or not, it cannot be denied that its very existence is an encroachment on the beautifully apolitical world in which grown men tackle each other for a ball. Conversations that were once only as controversial as who should be starting at quarterback have been replaced by heated arguments about minority rights versus respect for the military. That is not to say that his message is not an important one, but after the exhausting election season that we have all just experienced, could you really blame people for simply wanting a break?
At the same time, though, maybe sports can serve to bridge a gap. There is no such thing as Democrat or Republican in the basement or at a sports bar when the game is on. And at a time when the ideological divide in this country seems to get deeper by the day, sports provide the last discourse in which anyone’s opinion is respected, so long as it is well-founded. There is personal stake, but an argument in favor of your team only goes so far as facts can support it. I mean, sure I’m a 49ers fan, but I’m not going to make any attempt to convince you that this season is going well. Perhaps politicians could learn a thing or two from sports fans.
So, when I got those two notifications Tuesday night, the striking contrast of their severity provided me with just a little bit of comfort. Donald Trump is the president-elect, and I cannot spin that in any way that looks promising for my future or the future of this country. What I can do, though, at least for the time being, is turn off the news and turn on a damn football game.
Contact Adriana Ghiozzi at