Years ago, the company I worked for participated in a gargantuan, Las Vegas-based trade show. Many of the largest companies hired celebrities to perform at their booths, or simply show up to sign autographs. It was an effective way to draw crowds.

One of my favorite memories was stumbling upon a booth featuring former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson as the guest-of-the-day. Not exactly a marquee attraction, but for football fans, a true celebrity.

Being from New Jersey, I did not grow up a Vikings fan. But my co-worker, Kent Anderson, was (and is) everything Minnesota.

While Pearson graciously signed our program, Kent mentioned his Minnesota roots and, of course, what many refer to as the original “Hail Mary” pass in the 1975 Vikings-Cowboys playoff game, the winner of which would go on to the Super Bowl. It was called a Hail Mary pass because, according to legend, the Cowboys hall-of-fame quarterback Roger Staubach claimed he said a Hail Mary before the desperation play.

Volumes have been written on his pass and Pearson’s catch with just 24 seconds left in the game — but here’s the condensed version:

Staubach threw a very long pass. Pearson caught it and ran for a touchdown. What’s the problem? Vikings fans believe — to this day, 45 years later — that Pearson interfered by pushing off the Vikings defender, Nate Wright.

Back to our visit with Pearson. Kent’s mere mention of his Vikings allegiance drew a big sigh from Pearson.

“You Minnesota fans will never give up, will you? For the millionth time, I did not interfere. It was a physical play and I came down with the ball. Get over it.”

He said it with a smile, but there was a bit of an edge in his voice. Of course, if you poll Cowboys fans, the play was completely clean.

These kinds of debates are one reason I love sports — and politics. We are passionate for our home teams, and the filter through which we watch as we root for our side, our city, our state and our candidate has an enormous effect on our emotions. Of course, we then use our intellect to justify whatever angst we are feeling.

Which brings me to this week’s election results … or non-results.

If you support President Donald Trump, I’m guessing you have a strong opinion about the possibility of fraud given the massive shift to mail-in and absentee ballots. And why wouldn’t you? Never in the history of our country have so many votes been cast that way. Who is monitoring this? How can we possibly guarantee the provenance of each vote? Why would we count votes that arrive after Election Day? Who sends anything important by mail?

If you support Joe Biden, on the other hand, voting early makes perfect sense. Have you heard? We are in the middle of a pandemic, for God’s sake! Also, absentee voting is an established, legal means of voting and not counting my mail-in vote would be a clear-cut case of voter suppression.

Some refer to this sort of reasoning as the tribalism of politics. I hate that term because it seems overly binary. Our team good; your team bad.

Let’s go back to my more comfy sports parallel and the Vikings-Cowboy game. Winning or losing a game generally comes down to many factors and, ultimately, hometown fans can be their own team’s harshest critics. This is especially true in Minnesota, the most self-critical fandom in the world. (Whatever the opposite of Philly fans are … that’s us.)

In that ill-fated Vikings-Cowboys game, the Vikings put themselves in a position to lose because of everything that happened earlier in the game.

Just last week, when the Packers and Aaron Rodgers were driving against the Vikings at the end, who thought we had the game in the bag? Polls of my buddies gave the game to the Packers by 95% before he was sacked.

When we look back on 2020 — which will be a good feeling because the mere fact of “looking back” will mean it’s over — Republicans and Democrats will have quite a bit of soul-searching to do. Yes, both candidates (and their campaigns) were flawed. But the results are pretty clear that we live in an extremely divided country with strong passions on both sides of the aisle. Couple that with cable news and social media and, well, here we are.

Learning to govern in a divided nation is hard work. This game is in overtime but, when it’s finished, we need to shake hands and get busy.

 

Jim Triggs lives in Edina.