One cliché that frustrates me (lots of them do; this is just today's topic) is when pundits, broadcasters, and players discuss a team from a midwestern city and praise their "blue-collar" style of playing. It got to me this past weekend when I heard it applied to the Browns, a team who, by any definition, don't really play a "blue-collar" sort of game. Editor's note: the term "lunchpail" is often used in the exact same context - sub it in for "blue-collar" here any time you like. It's a mindless platitude that is not only devoid of any real meaning, but also in many instances flat-out wrong. Four reasons why this frustrates me:

- The whole "blue-collar" thing with reference to pleasing fans basically implies that the city consists largely of working-class people - laborers, steelmakers, pipefitters, and such. Maybe it was true that cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh had a higher proportion of such individuals like 50 years ago, but not so much now. Trust me, those cities have a lot of "white collar" professional people. I'd argue that pretty much every city in the US has a similar balance of people in professional and labor occupations these days, so saying that a certain city has more of a blue-collar workingman ethic than a rival city is ridiculous.

- You know what? I'm a professional person, a white-collar type (a scientist!). I don't have a lunchpail - I have these little plastic things with one compartment for vegetables and one for rice and noodles. Does that mean I appreciate the Browns winning with a strong rushing attack any less than a Union guy who's also a Browns fan? Do I appreciate a hard-earned first down less? Do unemployed fans hate football because they aren't hard-working? Of course not. It's stupid to even think so.

- Even if these cities did still have these old-style demographics, what the hell does that have to do with the football team? There are certain football qualities that people, for whatever reason, associate with blue-collar people. Things like running the ball, being "physical" (one of my favorite NFL cliches, since every fucking game ever is physical - it's football), and "working hard." I'm not sure why this is the case - it's not like professional people don't work hard, and often the fact that they do work hard is the very reason why they're not in a blue-collar occupation. Anyway, I fail to understand what these particular football things have to do with working-class people and why anyone thinks a city's sporting clubs should reflect an antiquated notion of their labor demographics. The two are totally unrelated.

- Look at the Penguins' Stanley Cup teams of the early '90's. Could a team have less well-represented the things that some people brainlessly deem to be blue-collar and, well, Pittsburghy? They scored a ton, played wide-open finesse European-style hockey, and barely bothered to play defense. If you go by the conventional "blue-collar" mentality, these Penguins couldn't have been a worse fit for the Steel City. Which brings me to my next point:

- FANS DON'T CARE WHAT STYLE THEIR TEAM PLAYS AS LONG AS IT WINS. That's all that matters, not this ridiculous class warfare thing the media gets all hung up on. Those Penguins were as white-collar of a hockey team as ever existed, but guess what? - they won two titles and remain beloved in Pittsburgh almost 20 years after they won. Who the hell cares how they did it? You think some guy in construction is sitting there complaining about the Pens winning because they didn't backcheck hard enough? I highly doubt it.

If the Browns invented a style of offense where they never had to so much as touch the other team, instead using a complex but unstoppable system of laterals that always led them to the end zone but never got their uniforms dirty, and the defense perfected a method of always stripping their opponent of the ball and returning it for a TD without ever even tackling anyone, that would be called a "white-collar" team, no? And you know what? "Blue-collar" Cleveland would fucking love it because the Browns would be winning.

Plus, aren't most of the things that mark successful teams and organizations white-collar-type decisions? In all sports, and especially in football, good management and strategy are arguably the most important factor in the team's success - aren't those white-collar functions? It seems to me that, like in any society or business organization, sports clubs need a proper balance of executive, professional, and labor people, not this blue-collar nonsense.

Next time someone says something along these lines, just think what a reductionist, incorrect idiot he is. Neither cities nor sports organizations have these class identities anymore, and even if they did, fans just want a winner - no matter how.


David said...

Do unemployed fans hate football because they aren't hard-working?

what the fuck?!

Andy said...

First off, great comment, well-written and clearly stated.

Second, I'm making the absurd reverse argument from the absurd people who seem to imply that working-class people appreciate hard-played football more. By that logic, a lazy slacker who doesn't work at all would be wholly unappreciative of football, which is certainly untrue.

David said...

I place a lot of value on being succinct.

And regardless of your reverse argument I still object to the unemployed being characterized as lazy.

Andy said...

Note that I didn't say the unemployed are "lazy," I said "aren't hard-working." This is by definition. One cannot work hard if one doesn't work at all, regardless of the ethic one may have.