Defining Political Sentiment: Mainstream or My Stream?

The 2016 presidential primary season has shattered every expectation about the established process. From the retiree-aged front-runners to no political experience required, SNL skits have been unnecessary as the real events are so entertaining.

I am a party-unaffiliated independent, with limited interest in politics. Yes, I vote in most elections and worry about the macro issues. But I’m simply not passionate enough about the process or those who bravely dedicate themselves to public office to connect with either party.

Primary season has pushed forward and most of us have been surprised at Donald Trump’s persistent lead, given his freewheeling talking points. However, his tell-it-like-it-is, unfiltered approach seems to be resonating. And the Bern, in spite of his costly plans, has modest momentum. What is it about these upstart candidates that the public has found so appealing?

That’s exactly what establishment politicians are wondering. And these days, they’re getting nervous about potential outcomes. How can an outsider represent the conservative Republicans? How dare millennials, including young women, challenge Hillary’s chances in favor of a Democratic socialist?

Political pundits describe these rogue candidates as going against the “mainstream” particularly on the Republican side. But are they really challenging the mainstream, or just the traditional politicians themselves, who may be concerned about their own futures?

To test this theory, I reviewed mainstream’s definition against current events. A quick Google search listed the following terms as “mainstream.”

  1. Normal: I can’t dispute this one. What we’ve come to expect as normal or “business as usual” is certainly being challenged. But then again, isn’t it the voters – or the politicians’ constituents – who are raising their voices to challenge?
  2. Conventional: Neither Trump or Sanders is particularly conventional but they have amassed a substantial following, so perhaps they’re simply redefining the term.
  3. Majority: Here, I’m not so sure, as the fact that both Trump and Sanders are winning means some majorities favors their ideas and calls for change.
  4. Middle-of-the-road: I don’t believe that either party can claim to represent the middle-of-the-road. The natural tension between the blue and red is what enables achieving decisions and governing policies that work for most of us.

So I’m not convinced that either Trump or Sanders is really challenging the mainstream. Perhaps the mainstream is challenging itself and these candidates are helping chart that new course. Regardless, Trump and Sanders have engaged more interest during the presidential elections early stages than ever before, which is certainly positive – and not a particularly mainstream expectation! Remember to vote in your primary – and in November – and until then, enjoy the show.

Election

#LetsGoMets!

There’s nothing like getting scolded on Facebook by your mother. And all because of a baseball team she doesn’t root for. It’s October – or World Series time – this year featuring the NY Mets and once again, the Kansas City Royals. After the Mets’ clinched their spot, she posted a congratulatory message on Facebook, closing with their battle cry “Let’s Go Mets!” Trust me, she was being a good sport as she’s longtime Yankees fanatic. But her good-sport sentiment made me think about how national championships stretch our sports brand loyalties.

The professional sports leagues have done a tremendous job creating must-watch events of their annual winner-takes-all final showdowns. Whether baseball, football, basketball or hockey, once the regular season winds up, fans whose teams are out of it have two choices – stop paying attention or pick someone else to cheer. The latter can follow league loyalties, so baseball fans may favor fellow American or National league contenders, or maybe geographic affinities, such as my mother’s Mets rally cry. Bottom line is this – fans love the overarching sports brand and once a year, willingly put aside emotional ties just to stay in the game experience. Is there any other brand that can make that claim?

So back to my Facebook scolding. I replied to my mother’s post with a passing comment about how those of us in Red Sox Nation had moved on to the NFL (yes, our beloved Pats are unbeaten!) and she called me out for being a bad sport. And you know what? She’s right.

Congratulations to all of you (non-Yankee) New York baseball fans. I am actually watching the World Series game and wish you the best. Lets go Mets!

NYM

Why the NFL scores big

Scandals aside, you can’t help but admire the National Football League. Supported by passionate fans, they dominate their TV time slots, prompt highly engaged social media activity and generate over $1 billion in merchandise sales. With a brand value exceeding $10 billion, dramatic, high-quality competition is the main event. However, the NFL has also nurtured its brand magnificently with strict usage guidelines and clever brand extensions. They have also enabled an addictive manner to expand interest beyond “your team” through fantasy football. So instead of planning your entire week around watching one game, you now have an excuse to spend Sundays watching football – and probably Monday and Thursday nights, too. According to NBC Sports Pro Football Talk, 34 of America’s 35-most watched fall 2013 TV shows were football games. If you’re in a fantasy league, you get it. And if you’re not, you probably have too much free time on your hands.

Fantasy football traces its roots to eight Oakland Raiders fans in 1963, but expanded very slowly due to the manual effort required to track the scoring. Fast-forward to the late 90s when the CBS launched a free fantasy website and then to 2010, when the NFL itself released an official fantasy site. Today roughly 33 million people spend hours refreshing their statistical capabilities by carefully managing a fantasy football team through the season. Trades, waiver claims, contemplating who to start or bench, and of course bragging when you’re winning – and quietly going off the grid when you’re losing – are all fantasy fan habits.

My team did well last year, and I will admit that I watched a lot more football, contributing to the NFL brand’s success. The 2015 season is young but I’ve already spent money on an official NFL jersey (Gronk, of course!), have tuned in to hours of game time and am fretting about my fantasy team. If you’re in a league, I wish you a winning season and let’s compare notes in February! (P.S. if you want more statistics, check out FiveThirtyEight’s “Complete History of the NFL” post.)

IMG_0976-1