Picture a football game: the crowd on one side of the stadium cheers as its team scores, and groans as it is pushed back. The fans in the opposite stands reciprocate with their own boos and cheers. The synchrony on each side gives the impression of an indivisible unit, like members of a chorus, controlled by the same script. The warmth and empathy of the members of the crowd for each other and their disdain, even hostility, for the other side are striking. The polarized thinking of a team on the field and of their supporters in the stands has much in common with the more extreme thinking involved in prejudice, race riots, and persecution.
Now imagine a parade of jackbooted storm troopers goose-stepping in unison with the rousing music of a military band to the cheers of adoring crowds. This scene resembles the spectacle of the uniformed football players and their cheering partisans at the stadium. The enthusiasm of the supporters generates contagious fervor, exalting their champions (and by association, themselves) and denigrating the opposition.
The hostility in the sports arena is generally contained and time-limited, while military ferocity can be extensive and all-consuming—yet the dichotomy between “us” and “them” exists in both arenas. In fact, the line between sports competition and violent attacks on the adversary is not infrequently crossed. Witness the “soccer wars“: rampaging fans of the losing team assault the supporters of the winners and even the members of their own team by whom they feel betrayed.