I despise Patrick Kane.
The guy is a caricature of everything people cannot stand about “frat-boy” culture. He uses terms like “my boy” to describe intimates, seems to love drinking during the day (something people should never do), punched a hapless cabbie in the head and uses phone-cameras to document his life in the same way that your irritating ex-girlfriend does.
Having said all that, he is an exceptional hockey player, and there will be a two-week interval during the 2013-2014 season where I desperately hope he plays the best hockey of his life.
The interval will take place during the Olympics, and I hope he plays the best hockey of his life during the games because Kane, like myself, is an American.
This is what Olympic hockey does, in a sense: turns fans into hypocrites.
The reason for this is patriotism.
Take a look at how Andrew Sullivan, blogger for “The Dish,” defines patriotism and how it differs from nationalism.
The desire to see our countrymen succeed is particularly relevant here. If we accept Sullivan’s definition, then our hypocrisy becomes perfectly understandable, but some issues still remain…
People claim to want the best for their countrymen, but patriotic thoughts like “I would die for my fellow Americans” do not serve most of us during our everyday lives. We are usually concerned with feeding, clothing and amusing ourselves. Marveling at the courage of war veterans or contemplating the brilliance of the founding fathers will not help fulfill these basic human desires.
However, thoughts like “I hope the Red Wings win tonight” do help fulfill these desires. We watch the Red Wings (or whoever) on a regular basis and have done so for many years. As a result, great stretches of our time are spent celebrating or condemning their performance.
On the other hand, our devotion to Team USA is less frequent, and we may find some American players revolting. But none of this will prevent me from screeching when Kane ties the game, puts USA on the board, gives USA a lead or gives USA a win.
Our desire for players to excel is obviously arbitrary; contingent upon what team the player is a member of. I want Kane to score goals as an American but not as a Blackhawk.
This is not breaking news. In fact, this hypocrisy is at work when we watch our home teams (I don’t like player X, but he is on team Y, so I want him to score). What makes Olympic hockey unique is it gives us the chance to see just how arbitrary and temporary our allegiances really are.
Patrick Kane will only be on Team USA for two weeks; the period of time I will want him to light it up. As soon as the games are over, he will return to being another loud-mouthed Blackhawk, and I will want someone to victimize him.
“Ok. So what? It’s just a game,” you might be saying.
The more disturbed members of fandom will disagree that hockey is just a game, but “so what?” is a fair question.
The answer is people are born hypocrites.
Robert Kurzban, professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania, explains.
Hmmm. Very interesting.
So there is a part of my mind, an “app”, that hates Patrick Kane, wishes for him to fail and longs for him to be “Kronwalled.” There is another part of my mind, another “app”, that wants Team USA to win the gold medal. On the face of it, these two “apps” should not conflict, but they do because Kane and I share a nationality, a fondness for hockey and presumably, a sense of patriotism.
Since I have not read Kurzban’s book and am not a psychologist, I will have to do some “educated” guesswork in the next paragraph. If you have a background in brain-study, please feel free to correct me.
Our brains developed these “apps” through evolutionary processes. The human mind has “apps” that cause us to believe inconsistent things because we live in an inconsistent world. The neighborhood lion may kill us today or it may not. It could be rainy today or it could be sunny. I might be sick today or I might not. Since these events could occur at any moment, these “apps” must ready to function at any moment.
We don’t know exactly what shaped the world, but the world is exactly what shaped the brain.
This leads to a basic question: why is hypocrisy bad? Hypocrisy is thought of as bad because being a hypocrite damages our credibility. Given that human beings are social beasts, having one’s credibility damaged is disadvantageous. We want people to take what we say seriously which is a difficult task in and of itself. Being thought of as a hypocrite makes it even more difficult.
“Don’t listen to John. He’s full of it,” is a consequence of being a hypocrite and will not help a person endure Darwinian perils, or anything else.
If Kurzban is correct, then human beings have a natural inclination, a need, to be hypocritical. Being a sports fan satisfies this need because in sports, being a hypocrite is no big deal. This may support the view of some people that humanity is wretched or fallen; a “virus” as we are referred to in the overrated “Matrix” movies.
The idea that humanity is vile is a silly, I dare say ignorant, view. Humanity is far too complex to be labeled as wretched, fallen is a religious concept that I won’t address here, and a virus can’t come to its senses and attempt to clean the atmosphere and protect an endangered species.
“Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin,” Darwin said when discussing our relationship to apes.
The stamp of our lowly origins is in our minds too, Charles. For that is where hypocrisy lies.
I began my career in hockey as a pre-scout for Cranbrook Kingswood Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I have been writing about the NHL for multiple platforms since the 2007-2008 season.