Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Braves and Pirates provide a lesson: you see what you want to see, you know what you want to know

If you haven't seen the replay of the way the extra inning game between the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates ended last night then you can see a video replay on ESPN's website.
For those in situations where watching videos online is not approved here is the background: the game between the Braves and the Pirates went to the 19th inning last night. Both teams are in playoff contention, so the game was pretty important.

With runners at first and third, and less than two outs, pitcher Scott Proctor – batting, I suppose, because there were no one else left to bat – hit a ground ball to third. The third baseman for the Pirates, Pedro Alvarez, threw home to catcher Michael McKenry who appeared to tag the runner out far in front of the plate, twice.

Then, the runner stepped on home and was called safe.

The Pirates went crazy, the announcers, including the Braves announcers, were puzzled by the call, and every one eventually went home – mad or confused.

Fast forward to today and the discussion on the boards online. Surely the question is, as ESPN asks, was this the worst call in baseball history?

Well, actually, this isn't the way the headline read, instead it reads "Was it really the worst call ever?" And that is enough of an opening for some readers on the website to look at the videos more with their hearts and conclude that he was possibly safe.

He wasn't, he was out.

But fans are fans. But so are partisans. And this little lesson in cognitive dissonance helps explain much of what is going on in politics today. Americans act more like fans than citizens, and so are more than eager to justify positions that on the surface appear to be in conflict: kill social security, but continue sending me my checks; keep government out of the health care system, don't touch Medicare; the rich get all the breaks, don't raise taxes.

Given an opening by some media outlets, citizens are encouraged to maintain their denial, hold onto positions that on the surface appear to make no sense. In other words, are provided cover.

For some Braves fans they can watch the video of last night's game a million times, and the longer they see the video the more they will convince themselves that their guy was safe.