Wow, who would have thought that there'd be a moderated discussion of football on slashdot... What's next? Maxim magazine reviewing computer games?
Seriously though, I was at a hockey game last week and witnessed the same phenemenon - "There are no good calls that don't go in your favor." Every time your guys trip, you're glad when the ref doesn't call it. Every time one of their guys trips your guys, you scream bloody murder, and if the ref doesn't see it then you invite him to join the game, or offer to buy his seeing-eye dog ice-skates, etc.
Their goalie blocked one of our shots, and one of the guys with me, an Aussie watching his first game, cheered. I said, "Don't cheer, that was their play." And he said, "It was a good play. Hockey was the winner." And that blew my mind, it sounded so foreign. Hard to imagine an American fan cheering for Hockey rather than a specific team.
So I was thinking about this, after the game. If we Americans have such an 'Us vs. Them' mindset in our sports, is it a condition of our cultural environment, or is our enjoyment of the sports conditioning us to perceive other conflicts in the same 'Us vs. Them' mindset? Or is it just part of the same mix of people->culture->people?
Specifically, why don't we have any sports/games with more than two teams? Does anyone else, for that matter? What is it that prevents us from being able to invent interesting games that perceive conflict in more than an 'Us vs. Them' fashion?
I remember WoTC back in the day (dating myself) publishing different variants for their Magic card game that were quite interesting, the best of which was the 'Five Color' game. I've never heard the mechanics of a good 5-team game described anywhere else, so I will describe it as the Five Color game.
5 teams are logically arranged in a pentagon. From the top, clockwise, we find White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. The object of the game is to destroy the teams positioned 'across' from you, ie not next to you on the pentagon. The teams next to you are potentially your allies, not for any high reason, just because you happen to share an enemy. Additionally, your other ally is your ally's other enemy. Tricky.
The additional level of depth and strategy required adds an entirely new enjoyment to the game. You know every alliance is going to be betrayed at some point, it's in calculating the exact moment of betrayal that rewards the winner. It forces the player to be aware of conflicts happening between entirely other teams, and how to use those conflicts to perhaps set your enemies against themselves, or gain an ally. It forces strategy to become sophisticated in ways that calling a football game a chess-match doesn't even come close to.
And the interesting question would be, if America's favorite sports became 5-color games, would we see a corresponding increase in the sophistication with which we perceive international affairs?
I throw it out for conversation. (And secretly I hope that a few mod-makers (or budding sport-inventors) are inspired. I'd love to go hack WarCraft2 to make it support larger maps and a 5-color match up, or making a TF mod for such a game (maybe when TF2 comes out *chuckle*). Or maybe someday my internationally-savvy children will teach their old man how to play '5-color ball'... )