In 1964 a British evolutionary biologist named W.D. Hamilton postulated a theory that came to be known as Hamilton’s Rule and it goes something like this: when we find ourselves in a confrontation, one of the first things we do is to evaluate our opponents’ fitness in comparison to our own. If we feel that we’re stronger, we’ll open our options to the possibility of partaking in “spiteful behavior.” Spiteful behavior is defined as an act that “results in harm, or loss of fitness, to both the actor and the recipient.”
So what, one wonders, is the evolutionary advantage of allowing an organism to deliberately harm another without any apparent benefit to itself? Is this ability a product of evolution, or is it some unspoken social contract the powerful exercise over the weak? And does this behavior have some hidden byproduct that favors certain adaptations over others for future survival?
Do all nice guys finish last, behind the spiteful bastards?
I wrestled with the question for months before getting proof that nice guys can finish ahead of the intentionally malicious and petty. The revelation struck me during the Superbowl, appropriately enough, as good guy Eli, the understated, baby-faced younger brother who married his high school sweetheart, defeated the square-jawed, impenetrably stoic, model-chasing Tom Brady and the Evil Empire forces of the bastardly Bill Belichick. For a second time.
But The New England Patriots and their fans are not the target of this jeremiad. That is left to the fair weather New York Giants fans who ten weeks ago saw their team lose four straight games to be staring at a potentially .500 season.
There’s no better place to find examples of Darwin’s Natural Selection than on the concrete jungle of Manhattan Island. And as of today’s Championship Parade, there are more than a few New Yorkers who owe the G-Men at least some kind of apology for their behavior.
The staff of the New York Post and Daily News had all but driven nails into the hands and feet of Coughlin and Manning when it looked like the G-men were going to deliver an average season. They made up for it with pithy headlines after big wins against Green Bay and San Fran (the best was the New’s “Super Mann” over a cheering Eli in the appropriate Marvel Comic red and yellow, and followed it with Supe Mann II the following week).
Nor will I forget Mike Francesa’s slack jawed, grammatically liberal, and consistently incorrect predictions after their “unearned win against Miami”. He said Manning just didn’t have the character this year, and Coughlin just wasn’t up to it this year, etc. etc. All this from a self-declared, blue blooded Giants die-hard and wanna-be-lover of Bill Parcels. Well, you were wrong, Mike. So apologize, and hope the G-men are less like you, and accept…
I was dubious about our chances myself. Like all teams at the professional level, the men in blue are hard to watch at times. They amassed some ugly wins. Wins you feel a little dirty about. And there were several losses that I had to turn the hell off. But I never got spiteful towards them. But you could hear it start to brew on in local bars and on the subways. It’s bad, when the first thing you bond over with a fellow fan is the detailed critique on last week’s loss. But there is nothing worse than hearing spite start to creep into a fellow fan’s commentary. There’s that fine line when the dialogue shifts from, we should have won that game, to “we deserved to lose.” That is spite, ladies and gentlemen, pure and simple.
It’s easy to blame social media for the perpetual chatter that plagues every major event these days. The white noise that ends up being just plain wrong. And we now all have to tolerate the insecurities of every single human being with a Twitter account. Yes, Twitter and Facebutt can be miraculous tools, but like all revolutionary inventions, they are just as often misappropriated or flat out abused. Leave it at this; there’s value to having time to process things before commenting on them. And that includes your favorite team’s trajectory in the NFL.
Why be spiteful against your own team’s quarterback and coach? Can’t fans who want to protect themselves via skepticism just stay negative? Do that have to add spite to the mix as come kind of prophylactic against hope? God forbid you HOPE your team will win the Superbowl. That would be setting yourself up for sure heartbreak. Instead, trash the thing you love. Write it off with snarky commentary. Condemn it with detached confidence, even though it secretly kills you to do so. Even though you want to be supportive… Chose caffeine free Spite instead! It demonstrates your power over the thing that makes you vulnerable and that’s more important than loyalty……
The three big games that lead up to the Big Dance could have gone either way. I kept my mouth shut around the Diehard’s who guaranteed easy wins, or the naysayers who predicted certain defeat. I know how hard it is to win in the NFL. I know how much pleasure a victory gives me. And how a loss starts my week off on the wrong foot. But for the 7 times the Giants came up short this year, I never once felt the advantage of heaping vitriol on them. Never once did I roll my eyes and say, I knew they would suck again this year. Let’s get rid of Eli. Let’s get rid of Coughlin, let’s move the entire team out of New Jersey. I expended my energy on other endeavors, even when that meant hurting from a loss, or reading the dismissive, borderline slanderous evaluations in the next day’s home town rags.
Altruistic behavior, even when rooting for your football team, appears to be the road less travelled, but I get the feeling it’s one that Charlie Darwin would have approved of. If you are open minded about losing, you can learn from it, as the Giants did, and it can help you to build character. Losing is important. Suffering is crucial. Admitting you suck and can improve is essential! The greatest winners in the history of every sport, know what it means to suck, to lose, to get blown away. The same must applie to the fan. And the consequence are nothing less than the propagation of the species.
Loyalty in the form of positive vibes, even when you get your ass handed to you by a team you should paint the field red with, is more likely to attract a suitable female mate to continue the procreation of the species with than being a bitter, spiteful, down beat fuckface. And we need more little G-men boosters in size small G-men jumpers (with footies) to grow up and fill the stands of future Superbowls, which are sure to come with such a fine, young, healthy football team. We deserve it don’t we?
Fantastic victory and fantastic post. Not what I was expecting. But read all the way through.
I like your website. Strong posts. Good luck in the future.