February 21, 2014

The Blues and the Greens

The carnage in Kiev is vaguely reminiscent of the great riots of 532 AD in Constantinople that began at the chariot races when the rival fan clubs, the brawling followers of the Blue and Green racing teams, joined forces and turned on Emperor Justinian the Great. It is perhaps trivializing of the issues at stake in Kiev to point out this connection with Constantinople (which, by the way, converted the Kievan Rus to to Orthodoxy in 969), but this famous story is worth recalling in its own right.

For some reason, this tale is peculiarly appealing to science fiction authors. (The influence of Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on sci-fi writers would be an interesting topic: e.g., Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is obviously inspired by Gibbon.)

For most of the 20th Century, historians assumed that the Blues and the Greens of Byzantine Constantinople weren't really just sports fans, but represented the upper class versus the lower class or the religiously orthodox versus the heretical or some neighborhoods versus some other neighborhoods. After all, nobody would get that worked up over sports, would they?

But in the 1970s, historian Alan Cameron, referencing the soccer hooligans of his own day, argued that we shouldn't overlook how important sports were in the Byzantine Empire to young men: "The truth is (of course) that Blues hated the Greens, not because they were lower-class or heretics -- but simply because they were Greens."

But that raises the question of whether sports rivalries can be uncorrelated with other subdivisions of society. Generally, sports rivalries in the modern world correlate with all sorts of demographic traits because they are territorial: teams have their home fields, which tend to attract local fans.

However, the home turf of both the Greens and the Blues was the vast hippodrome in downtown Constantinople.

A vague modern analog might be the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, who have both played in the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for the last 15 years.

Traditionally, the Lakers are more successful and more popular, especially with movie stars, but it's not particularly clear that fans of the Lakers or Clippers represent different neighborhoods or classes or ethnicities. The Lakers tend to appeal to Angelenos who like winners and don't mind spending money to associate themselves with winners (i.e., most of them) , while I presume the Clippers appeal to the budget-conscious (the Clippers charge about half as much as the Lakers for the same seat) and those who like underdogs. A marketing plan for the Clips speculates:
The Clippers' current fan base is of a low income bracket, probably young and from out of town, doesn not want to be seen as a bandwagoner, prefers to avoid the mainstream teams and is hoping the Clippers will write a Cinderella story.

On the other hand, the Lakers v. Clippers rivalry is low intensity by the standards of Chicago Cubs v. Chicago White Sox, much less Rangers v. Celtic in Glasgow. One reason for this is the lack of success of the Clippers hasn't generated much loyalty toward them.

Another is that Southern California hasn't been conducive to local sports animosities -- only USC v. UCLA in football generates much heat. Los Angeles Dodger baseball fans, for instance, often root for the Anaheim Angels if they are winning and vaguely wish them well when they aren't. In general, as James Q. Wilson noted after moving from L.A. to Boston in the 1940s to attend Harvard, Angelenos don't have turf, they have cars.

Finally, since enthusiasm (such as it is) for the Clippers has been distributed less regionally or ethnically than psychologically, with the Clippers appealing to random frugal eccentrics, there's not much this rivalry does to tap into human territoriality.

On the other hand, it's hard for me to fathom how the Blues and Greens couldn't come to be correlated with other factors such as class or neighborhood.

Gibbon wrote:
Constantinople adopted the follies, though not the virtues, of ancient Rome; and the same factions which had agitated the circus, raged with redoubled fury in the hippodrome. ...

Insolent with royal favor, the blues affected to strike terror by a peculiar and Barbaric dress, the long hair of the Huns, their close sleeves and ample garments, a lofty step, and a sonorous voice. In the day they concealed their two-edged poniards, but in the night they boldly assembled in arms, and in numerous bands, prepared for every act of violence and rapine. Their adversaries of the green faction, or even inoffensive citizens, were stripped and often murdered by these nocturnal robbers ... 

The first edict of Justinian, which was often repeated, and sometimes executed, announced his firm resolution to support the innocent, and to chastise the guilty, of every denomination and colour. Yet the balance of justice was still inclined in favour of the blue faction, by the secret affection, the habits, and the fears of the emperor; his equity, after an apparent struggle, submitted, without reluctance, to the implacable passions of Theodora, and the empress never forgot, or forgave, the injuries of the comedian. ...

As a poor child, the family of the future Empress Theodora was scorned by the Greens but treated well by the Blues.
Sedition of Constantinople, surnamed Nika, A.D. 532, January.  
A sedition, which almost laid Constantinople in ashes, was excited by the mutual hatred and momentary reconciliation of the two factions. In the fifth year of his reign, Justinian celebrated the festival of the ides of January; the games were incessantly disturbed by the clamorous discontent of the greens:... 
At this dangerous moment, seven notorious assassins of both factions, who had been condemned by the praefect, were carried round the city, and afterwards transported to the place of execution in the suburb of Pera. Four were immediately beheaded; a fifth was hanged: but when the same punishment was inflicted on the remaining two, the rope broke, they fell alive to the ground, the populace applauded their escape... (51) 
As one of these criminals was of the blue, and the other of the green livery, the two factions were equally provoked by the cruelty of their oppressor, or the ingratitude of their patron; and a short truce was concluded till they had delivered their prisoners and satisfied their revenge. The palace of the praefect, who withstood the seditious torrent, was instantly burnt, his officers and guards were massacred, the prisons were forced open, and freedom was restored to those who could only use it for the public destruction. A military force, which had been despatched to the aid of the civil magistrate, was fiercely encountered by an armed multitude, whose numbers and boldness continually increased ... The conflagration involved the cathedral of St. Sophia ...

Thus was destroyed the predecessor of the great St. Sophia cathedral that was built five years later in 537 AD.
 From such scenes of horror and distress, the wise and wealthy citizens escaped over the Bosphorus to the Asiatic side; and during five days Constantinople was abandoned to the factions, whose watchword, NIKA, vanquish! has given a name to this memorable sedition. (52) 
... They agreed to censure the corrupt management of justice and the finance; and the two responsible ministers, the artful Tribonian, and the rapacious John of Cappadocia, were loudly arraigned as the authors of the public misery. The peaceful murmurs of the people would have been disregarded: they were heard with respect when the city was in flames; the quaestor, and the praefect, were instantly removed, and their offices were filled by two senators of blameless integrity. After this popular concession, Justinian proceeded to the hippodrome to confess his own errors, and to accept the repentance of his grateful subjects; but they distrusted his assurances, though solemnly pronounced in the presence of the holy Gospels; and the emperor, alarmed by their distrust, retreated with precipitation to the strong fortress of the palace. The obstinacy of the tumult was now imputed to a secret and ambitious conspiracy, and a suspicion was entertained, that the insurgents, more especially the green faction, had been supplied with arms and money by Hypatius and Pompey, two patricians, who could neither forget with honor, nor remember with safety, that they were the nephews of the emperor Anastasius. 
... If the usurper [Hypatius], who afterwards pleaded the merit of his delay, had complied with the advice of his senate, and urged the fury of the multitude, their first irresistible effort might have oppressed or expelled his trembling competitor [Justinian]. The Byzantine palace enjoyed a free communication with the sea; vessels lay ready at the garden stairs; and a secret resolution was already formed, to convey the emperor with his family and treasures to a safe retreat, at some distance from the capital. 
Firmness of Theodora.  
Justinian was lost, if the prostitute whom he raised from the theatre had not renounced the timidity, as well as the virtues, of her sex. In the midst of a council, where [General] Belisarius was present, Theodora alone displayed the spirit of a hero; and she alone, without apprehending his future hatred, could save the emperor from the imminent danger, and his unworthy fears. 
"If flight," said the consort of Justinian, "were the only means of safety, yet I should disdain to fly. Death is the condition of our birth; but they who have reigned should never survive the loss of dignity and dominion. I implore Heaven, that I may never be seen, not a day, without my diadem and purple; that I may no longer behold the light, when I cease to be saluted with the name of queen. If you resolve, O Caesar! to fly, you have treasures; behold the sea, you have ships; but tremble lest the desire of life should expose you to wretched exile and ignominious death. For my own part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity, that the throne is a glorious sepulchre." 
The firmness of a woman restored the courage to deliberate and act, and courage soon discovers the resources of the most desperate situation. It was an easy and a decisive measure to revive the animosity of the factions; the blues were astonished at their own guilt and folly, that a trifling injury should provoke them to conspire with their implacable enemies against a gracious and liberal benefactor; they again proclaimed the majesty of Justinian; and the greens, with their upstart emperor, were left alone in the hippodrome. 
The fidelity of the guards was doubtful; but the military force of Justinian consisted in three thousand veterans, who had been trained to valour and discipline in the Persian and Illyrian wars. Under the command of Belisarius and Mundus, they silently marched in two divisions from the palace, forced their obscure way through narrow passages, expiring flames, and falling edifices, and burst open at the same moment the two opposite gates of the hippodrome. In this narrow space, the disorderly and affrighted crowd was incapable of resisting on either side a firm and regular attack; the blues signalized the fury of their repentance; and it is computed, that above thirty thousand persons were slain in the merciless and promiscuous carnage of the day. 


SFG said...

New York has the Yankees and Mets. The Yankees are located in Manhattan (richer) and the Bronx (poor/diverse), Mets fans in Brooklyn and Queens, and there is an overdog-underdog dynamic. I can't say there's really *that* much animosity, though.

dearieme said...

It's not often you write a stinker, Steve, but this is one.

Sam said...

Part of why soccer has such an appeal is that it is also a expression of local cultures, ethinic/national/race differences, class, history

Germany played legendary matches post-WWII against Holland,England, and France. They were very bitter games. In Madrid you have Real Madrid the personal favourite of Franco and THE royal club of Spain(Alfonso III) while you also have Atletico Madrid which is the working class club. Another aspect is that styles of football are understood in ideological terms so Atletico will play a rough, running and dirty style while Real Madrid has always prided themselves on code of ethics and playing with grance and elegance.

Of course in a city like London with a ton of clubs it is harder to have as sharp divisions. But it helps with Russian Oligarch takes over a club(Chelsea) and shower them with money to take them to the top and make the other London clubs bitter. Which is another division in soccer. The old aristocratic clubs(Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man Utd, Milan, Bayern) vs the noveau rich(Chelsea, Man City, Paris, Monaco). These tribal elements are what make football so emotional and great

Dan said...

This isnt the Victory Riots...

Lex said...

Would Obama be such a great presidential material if he was son of a white guy and black woman, or maybe blacks would see him as insulting symbol of plantators raping their women?

How many african americans have european y-dna?

bjdubbs said...


Ukraine is suffering from the effects of designed condominium ie Russian implanted a large Russian minority in Ukraine to exert influence over the country, just as Mexico implanted a large minority in the US to exert influence over US politics. This is similar to what China is doing in Tibet and Nepal and what Canada is doing in Florida.

Anonymous said...

The true basketball rivalry would be between the Lakers and Celtics, not the Lakers-Clippers. This never escalates to bloodshed though because the fans are so geographically isolated, the teams play so infrequently (only twice a year if they do not meet in the NBA Finals), and because the fans that would want to fight (and their are a great many on both sides) are priced out of the actual games. But as a native Angelino raised on the Lakers, I can tell you that I have an irrational hatred for the Celtics and Bostonians in general. And the feeling seems to be mutual. The only time in my life I have been physically attacked by a white person was outside a bar in Cape Cod after a Lakers NBA Finals victory over the Indiana Pacers, then coached by Boston's beloved Larry Bird. I suppose that would be sort of equivalent to a Celtics fan getting punched at a bar in Newport Beach after a Celtics victory. In any event, if you were to go by internet fanboards, you would likely speculate that if these two fan bases were in closer proximity, they could easily wage war against one another (Lakers fans, after all, have rioted after winning the championship on several occasions). Even as both teams are presently tanking, I still hate the Celtics.

Mr. Anon said...

I seem to recall reading once that there was a religious split (catholic / orthodox) between the blues and the greens. Membership in one vs. the other of the groups was not exclusive but there was a tendency. I can't remember which was which. I might have read about it in Robert Graves "Count Belesarius" which, by the way, is a rip-roaringly good book about that era.

Anonymous said...

In the UK if there's no particular reason like Rangers vs Celtic it's rivers i.e. people on one side of a river vs people on the other.

Mr. Anon said...

I know next to nothing about the situation in Ukraine, but perhaps there are just a lot of people there who are willing to engage in a protracted street-battle with the cops. Perhaps the police in Ukraine are becoming insufferable douche-bags, just as so many of the police in this country seem to have become.

Dahinda said...

With the Chicago Cubs v. Chicago White Sox, the Cubs are the affluent yuppie team while the White Sox are the blue collar team. This is why the White Sox are popular in suburban areas with a lot of blue collar residents that are nowhere near their South Side base. Central Lake County and some areas of Dupage County are full of Sox fans. Those areas are also full of Green Bay Packer fans too, possibly for the same reason. Wrigley Field always had the reputation as the kind of place you take the family and the kids. It was always full of cub scout troops and families. Comiskey Park on the other hand, always had the reputation as a place that you and 6 of your buddies would go to get drunk and rowdy.

john sager said...

As Gould said about Yankees - Mets: non-overlapping Magisteria.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

In Vienna, we have the Violets (Austria Wien) and the Greens (Rapid Wien).

As a kid, it was a frequent occurence to be asked "Rapid or Austria?" on the streets by a groups of boys. If you gave the wrong answer, a fight was on. Answering "I'm not into soccer" was of no help.

Both teams are equally strong and the fanbase appears the same demographically.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is obviously inspired by Gibbon."

Isaac has said (well written) that this was the case, also :-)

I'm going from memory, but I think it was in his commentary text in "The Early Asimov."

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Steve, Rus' was converted to orthodoxy in 988, not 969. By the way, at that time it simply called itself Rus'. The Kievan part was added by modern historians to distinguish the medieval, feudal Rus' that had its capital in Kiev from the later, Moscovite Rus'. Kievan Rus' did not know that that it would ever have a non-Kievan successor, so it just called itself Rus'.

If anyone's interested, the -ia form (Russia) is attested since the 10th century, but only became popular in the 17th. It was considered bookish and inauthentic early on because the -ia ending came from Greek and Latin. Russians still call Russia Rus' on occasion, sometimes seriously, sometimes not. It's seen as a folksy, more authentic alternative to "Rossiya" (Russia).

The adjective formed from Rus' (Russkiy) refers to people of Russian ethnicity regardless of where they were born or where they live. In contrast, a noun formed from the -ia version of the country's name (Rossiyanin) refers to citizens of Russia, regardless of their ethnic background. In general words formed from the -ia version refer to concepts pertaining to the Russian state, which is multiethnic, while words formed from the original, -ia-less version of the country's name mostly refer to ethnically Russian concepts.

Anonymous said...

Argentina's national rivarly bewteen River Plate and Boca Juniors, with river plate being traditionally the team of the middle class and boca juniors of the working class. Generally speaking you get a a lot of these type of rivalries in south america with different demographics rooting for different teams.

Anonymous said...

The urge to choose sides and fight stands alone. The correlations with political views, class, ethnic similarity or any other variable would contribute to the intensity and devotion of the commitment to the side. If a side is chosen arbitrarily, loyalty and devotion will grow based on nothing more than this is my side.

Anonymous said...

The Yankees are from the Bronx!

The Bronx is more violent, lower income than is Queens.

economicsophisms.com said...

Steve, You couldn't blog too much on Byzantium! There are so many lessons, so much unlearned history from that lost empire.

Indeed, I've marked that there is a correlation between how badly a country got it from the Muslims and its current debt crisis severity. Is it an accident that the order of most to least financially screwed is Greece, Spain, Italy? In a lot of ways, Northern Europe's modern advantages stem merely from being shielded from Islam by Byzantium. Geography is destiny.

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

It needs to be said that there was no clear division of sports and war in those days.

Today, football and basketball and baseball have nothing to do with the military.

But in the old days, chariot races were military in nature because chariots were used in actual war. And those who fought in wars rode the chariots too(at least in Ben Hur the movie).

5371 said...

Liverpool-Everton once had the same extra-sporting meaning as Rangers-Celtic, but lost it some time ago. It was still ridiculous when Paul McCartney claimed to be a fan of both, but not because it implied being Protestant and Catholic at the same time. Sevilla-Betis and River Plate-Boca Juniors still retain a taste of class antagonism.

Rrrrrroger said...

I think that for sports fans to be this serious about their rooting interests they must have nothing else in their lives. They can't work for a living. They have to be atomized individuals supported by the state. I think this was a necessary condition of the 80s soccer hooligans and for the Contantiople riots.

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

There's lots of blame to go all around. Gangsterism of Putin and Ukrainian president, meddling of EU, Nato politicking, and etc.

But the only reason why this is a big issue for the US is Jews.

If all American Jews were of Western European origin--from France or Germany or Netherlands and etc--, this wouldn't be an issue. But, as it turns out, there are lots of Jews who came from Russia and once-Russian-occupied regions of Europe. So, what happens in Eastern Europe is emotionally and politically important to them. Some still have families there. Some have connections of cultural, economic, or political character. Many have heard stories of big bad Russians. They have a love/hate thing with Russia and Slavs. Many keep up with Russian literature and news. Most sizable Jewish communities in America have libraries with lots of Russian books. Most people who take them are emigre Jews from Russia. Few Jews of German origin read German books. Few Jews of French origin read French books. But lots of Jews of russian origin still read Russian books. There's a couple of Russian book stores close to where I live and both are owned by Jews.

As Jews see it, after WWII, Germany and France(and all of Western Europe)came under American political, cultural, and intellectual dominance, which means they came under Jewish-American dominance. But Russia remains defiant... though twice in the 20th century, Jews almost gained ownership of that vast empire. During the Bolshevik rule of 20s and early 30s when so many communist Jews were powerful in the government and Stalin worked closely with them. But Stalin turned against them.
And then in the 90s when all of Russia was almost in their grasp... with drunken Yeltsin at the helm. It was so close they could taste it. Just imagine the power. Jews having US, EU, and Russia. Shiiiite!! But Putin came along. Though Putin has been nice to Jews, he will not act like Wasps in American and Western Europeans who kowtow before Jews and bend over to stuff like 'gay marriage' and 'white guilt'. And for Jews, being nice to Jews isn't enough, just like for homos, tolerating them isn't enough. We must welcome them, worship them, obey them, kiss their toes.

So, all this anti-Russian stuff is Jewish imperialism, as was the invasion of Iraq. Sold as 'spreading human rights and democracy', but really based on what is good for Jews. Actually, what is good for Jews is not good enough anymore. Jews are into what is GREAT for Jews. And Jews almost had all of Russia in their palm of their hands. So close, but it slipped by. But Jews don't give up. They keep fighting by looking for every crack in the wall. And the walls came tumbling down!!!

Jewish-Russian thing is very twisted. Many American leftist Jews once sympathized with Russia. They saw Russia as good for Jews as Lenin forbade anti-semitism. They saw America as evil, wicked, greedy, and wasp-ruled. So, many Jews spied for the USSR--even when Stalin began to turn on Jews. Jews who felt slighted by wasps in America looked to Russia as a land where Jews could stand proud and strong. But as things turned out, wasps made room for Jews who took over. And Jews succeeded far more through capitalism than through communism that, in favoring equality, suppressed Jewish talent and privilege.

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

And yet, the dream of Revolutionary Russia still remains alive in the Jewish heart. Not in ideological terms but in emotional terms. For Jews, Russian Revolution once equaled Jewish liberation and power. As such, Russianness came to be much admired by Jews. Though Jews crushed much of Old Russia, many came to love Russia literature, art, music, and etc. And this culture was eventually incorporated into Communist culture. So, even traditional Russian culture became appropriated by and identified with the Revolution. Russian communism became identified with Tchaikovsky, dostoevysky, tolstoy, Bolshoi ballet, and etc.

But with the fading of the Revolution, Russian culture is reverting to their traditionalist roots and losing their connection with the Revolution that Jews came to identify with so closely.

On some level, Jews do want a better Russia as some of them really do feel nostalgia for Russia. Even though they left Russia and remember the bad things(especially against Jews), they also remember the beautiful things. So, certain Jewish passions about Russia are motivated by love and affection.
But on another level, Jews are also motivated by hate and revenge. My Jewish friends--many of them with Russian background--would tell me how their grandparents fled from those Russian antisemitic baddies--just like from a Woody Allen movie. A lot of Jews will seethe when you mention Russia(or Poland). You can see their anger boiling over, hear their teeth grinding.

But this is really an issue with Jews with eastern roots. If all American Jews were of Western European origin, they would look at Russia with curiosity but not much more. But Jews of Eastern European origin pretty much dominate Jewish power in America.

Anonymous said...

College rivalries are more more likely to mirror different societal strata than pro rivalries are. Most states have both a "flagship" university, which attracts liberal arts types and pre-professionals (pre-law, pre-med), and a "land grant" school, usually suffixed by "State", "Tech" or (more rarely) "A&M", focusing more on engineering, agriculture, and undergrad business. The two schools are almost always bitter rivals in sports. The land-granters view the flagshippers as snobby and elitist, while the flagshippers view the land-granters as uncouth rednecks.

jody said...

how does steve know so much. did he read every book ever written? the breadth of his literary knowledge is staggering. wtf man. i never even heard of most of the stuff he brings up.

reading steve sailer is like listening to dennis miller calling monday night football.

Marc B said...

This reminds me of the recent "populist uprisings" in the Obama era (Syria, Egypt and Libya). Those people's revolutions smack of the same USA/CIA/multinational corporation orchestrated coups of the 1970's, and so does this one. The fact that people are literally dying to join the EU also gives me pause. Eastern Europe is typically skeptical of the benefits of ceding any of their sovereignty. When they do so, it is done with caution, not exuberance.

Initially, this stinks of a media-driven demonization campaign against Russia and Putin. NPR was subtlety pushing this meme a month before those whiny CNN press Tweets from Sochi emerged. And it's no secret that the Establishment finds Putin's nationalist policies an impediment to globalization.

If the majority of Ukrainians really want to align themselves with Europe, I support them. I just have my doubts about what the real will of the people is. I've seen this same peoples revolution template played out for most of my life, and they are typically manufactured by outsiders for their own benefit, not by and for the people.

Reg Cæsar said...

I never could figure out what divided the Guelphs and Ghibellines, or why it was important to anyone.

Jimbo said...

I think the reason you don't see much cross-town rivalries in baseball is that they've only actually started playing each other recently, and even now the games don't mean that much. I'd imagine the Blues and Greens would be like if both the Mets and the Yankees were in the AL East.

The only one that seems to have a neat division by class is the Cubs (who's fans are yuppies) and the White Sox (which seem to draw from a more working class fan base) . Maybe a Chicagoan can fill us in more - the only stuff I know about it I learned from the movie "The Breakup"...

Reg Cæsar said...

"The carnage in Kiev". That wonderful phrase needs to be carried by the strains of a great movie theme:

The Carnage in Kiev,
when it is gone,
will color up the streets
and fume the dawn.

Look into their eyes,
my friend, and see
the madness known as

A wistful little bird
should tell us Yanks
nothing here will call
for use of tanks

Or any other meddling
in Slavic-flavored Arab Spring
or we'll be stuck dismembering
the Carnage in Kiev.

SFG said...

"I never could figure out what divided the Guelphs and Ghibellines, or why it was important to anyone."

Wasn't it the Holy Roman Emperor versus the Pope?

Anonymous said...

Today in Rome, Roma FC and Lazio are still very intense rivals. Roma was created by the Fascists as a super team, who combined several teams, with Lazio notably declining to join.

Roma's colors are related to imperial Rome, and Lazio's refer to the Greek origins of the Olympics. Interestingly, my Roman friends tell me that Lazio is now the team associated with the "far right."

AmericanGoy said...

Is Steve-o writing these posts lately?

Or did some H1B guy grab the blog while Steve-o went on vacation?

No mention that Ukraine is 50% Ukrainian and 50% Russian transplants.

No mention of the strategic Russian Black Sea Fleet and its base, leased from Ukraine to Russia.

No mention of the conversation recorded by the Russian Special Services, excuse me, "hackers", which openly discusses who whom per USA's open interference into the crisis.


Ion said...

steve, have you seen this? :))





Anonymous said...

Guelphs and Ghibellines at least had a basis: Pope v. Emperor.

White Guelphs v. Black Guelphs was just bloody-minded factionalism.

Super Sparty said...

Michigan (Univerisity of) vs. Michigan State is very bitter and is a pretty good proxy for political views. A local sports talk DJ makes callers start their remarks with a one word declaration "Sparty" or "Blue" so listeners can immediately tell where the caller is coming from ... even if the caller wants to talk about ice-dancing or golf. Statewide political candidates also embrace or avoid maize/blue or green/white signage, logos, etc. on this principle. A liberal Democrat, even with an Irish name, would never run with a green/white color scheme in Michigan.

vinteuil said...

@dearieme - well, yes, this post is kind of a stinker, but, hey - what can one do?

I've been reading up like crazy for the last few days on Ukrainian affairs, and I've ended up more confused than ever. I simply have no idea who are the good guys & who the bad guys - if, indeed, there are any good or bad guys here.

So why *not* use it as an excuse to talk about something *really* interesting, like the Nike insurrection - and to quote, at length, the single greatest stylist of the English language, Edward Gibbon?

Anthony said...

Raiders vs 49ers is definitely more a class issue than a geographic one. 49ers are clean-cut Joe Montana (and relatively clean-cut Jerry Rice), while the Raiders are the bruisers Madden brought in. (Yeah, yeah, that's all ancient history now.) Working class whites root for the Raiders - they have fan trains come in from Stockton and Tracy.

Giants vs A's, too, but a little differently - the A's are the scrappy underdogs.

James Kabala said...

There was a moderately interesting article in the New York Times recently about the low-key rivalry between Liverpool and Everton. The lack of correlation with non-soccer factors is cited as a reason for the rivalry's sedateness:

"Most intracity rivalries in soccer are based on geography or economic background or religion; figuring out which side someone favors is generally an easy proposition, and tensions between the groups often run at a low boil. Here, though, there is no obvious way to tell a Kopite (Liverpool fan) from a blue nose (Everton fan) on first meeting."

James Kabala said...

Forgot to include the link:


Dr. Seattle said...

@ Mr. Anon, 6:03 AM:

No, the split between the Blues and the Greens wasn't the religious split between orthodox and catholic. The great riots Steve mentions were in 532 AD. The orthodox/catholic split was in 1054 AD. Even before the split, Constantinople would have been all orthodox anyway.

David said...

"The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." - Wellington

Anonymous said...

"No mention that Ukraine is 50% Ukrainian and 50% Russian transplants."

The part about "transplants" is nonsense.

never go full retard said...

Kind of a mishmash forgettable post by Sailer. The Clippers and the Lakers have never been good at the same time (i.e. the Clippers have rarely been good). Gonna make a crazy prediction here-- this tiresome tic of using political strife, with guns and rioters and ski masks, for analogy to the pack traits of blowhard USC Trojan fans is not going to be picked up and dusted off by historians and literary types of the future. Anyway, in Olympics news (yawn), a Korean just got affirmative-actioned out of her rightful citation. "You needed that gold medal, but they had to give it to a Slav"-- now that's a prime specimen of gripping world news so as to spark high IQ debate; really would like to hear what Piotr the Sharkenoff has to say there! Obsessing over quadrennial ice-rink scandals is the sacred duty of all Dignified Whitepeople of the Internet, amirite?

Mr. Anon said...

"Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

But in the old days, chariot races were military in nature because chariots were used in actual war."

That is not so. The Egyptians and Hebrews used chariots in war, but did not - as far as I know - make chariot racing into a sport. The Romans engaged in chariot racing as a sport, but did not use chariots in war.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Dr. Seattle said...

@ Mr. Anon, 6:03 AM:

No, the split between the Blues and the Greens wasn't the religious split between orthodox and catholic. The great riots Steve mentions were in 532 AD. The orthodox/catholic split was in 1054 AD. Even before the split, Constantinople would have been all orthodox anyway."

The formal split may have happened then, but the de-facto split occurred much earlier. I may have been mistaken however about the nature of the religious difference. Perhaps it was between orthodox and arian - although I thought that arianism had mostly been extinguished by the sixth century.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Mr. Anon said...

I seem to recall reading once that there was a religious split (catholic / orthodox) between the blues and the greens.

Maybe. But as a Catholic, I'd go orthodox these days....

Jerry said...

In an earlier thread on the events in Kiev, someone commented to the effect that the descendants of those who were untouched by the famine were waging aggression against those who were (i.e., previously Polish Western Ukraine vs. Eastern and Soviet Ukraine). But all this tells you is that Eastern Ukraine is a society with a broken spine--if it even had a spine, a question which has to do with the acceptance of authority taught by the Orthodox church and its culture. During Communism, there were regular rebellions against authority in the Eastern European countries, with the exception of the Orthodox lands--Bulgaria, Serbia... and Russia itself.

A lot of this Ukrainian business would be simpler to understand if one could keep in mind that Russia is not a Western country. It is profoundly alien, and after 70 years of self-imposed Communist deformation, it will take generations to repair. (Generally, there is a lot of naive thinking around here about the advantages of countries like Russia or Japan. This naivete is itself a kind of decadence, a decadence that springs from an insufficient consciousness of the values and benefits of Western civilization. It's aspergy poli sci...)

"In general words formed from the -ia version refer to concepts pertaining to the Russian state, which is multiethnic, while words formed from the original, -ia-less version of the country's name mostly refer to ethnically Russian concepts."

--In Polish, "rosyjski" means "Russian" as in the Russian state or nation, while "ruski" is a mildly insulting term connoting Russian disorder and ignorance.

" The fact that people are literally dying to join the EU also gives me pause. Eastern Europe is typically skeptical of the benefits of ceding any of their sovereignty. When they do so, it is done with caution, not exuberance. "

--This was correct three months ago, when the Maidan was filled with EU flags. However, the EU has been so slow and so self-absorbed that the EU flags have disappeared. Yesterday a fascinating letter from a Maidan leader was printed in Polish newspapers. It accused the EU of being concerned only with what makes them money, of being too old and too lazy to care about ideals any more. Reaction from commenters to this letter at Gazeta Wyborcza was overwhelmingly positive... When EU infrastructure funds dry up after 2020 (or earlier), there will be interesting tensions between the old and the new EU members. But that's another topic.

Auntie Analogue said...

Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/us/2-plead-guilty-in-beating-of-giants-fan-outside-dodger-stadium.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Not exactly "Plus c'est la même chose": for things to have remained the same the victims in that case would have had to fight back against their attacker.

Anonymous said...

The greatest team rivalry is the Montreal Canadians vs. Toronto maple leafs. This had it all: English vs. French, Quebec vs. Ontario, protestant vs. Catholic, fire wagon hockey versus disciplined defense. In the quarter century when the league had only six teams they played 14 times a year. often, both teams would fight for first place or in the Stanley cup finals.
Oddly enough, the only hockey riot, the Richard riots, had nothing to do with this rivalry.
Since the first expansion, Toronto has gone downhill and this rivalry has diminished somewhat.

Anonymous said...

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is obviously inspired by Gibbon.

No doubt much of the Foundation series is inspired by the history of the Roman empire, but the parts about the Foundation dominating nearby realms through a combination of trade, religion and muscle, is lifted directly from the playbook of the British empire, specifically the East India Company. I don't recall the Romans doing anything similar; they first conquered and then established "free trade" zones.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating history whether or not it's relevant to Ukraine. I don't think what's happening there is just "let's pick sides and have a fight".

Just looking at the Wiki for Lviv (""Lwów", "Lvov", and "Lemberg" redirect here").

"Lviv was the center of a number of Polish independence organizations...At the same time, the city also housed the largest and most influential Ukrainian institutions in the world ...Lviv was also a major centre of Jewish culture, in particular as a centre of the Yiddish language, and was the home of the world's first Yiddish-language daily newspaper, the Lemberger Togblat, established in 1904...
After the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy at the end of World War I Lviv became an arena of battle between the local Polish population and the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Both nations perceived the city as integral part of their new statehoods which at that time were forming in the former Austrian territories. On the night of 31 October – 1 November 1918 the Western Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed with Lviv as its capital. 2,300 Ukrainian soldiers from the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (Sichovi Striltsi), which had previously been a corps in the Austrian Army, took control over Lviv. The city's Polish majority opposed the Ukrainian declaration and began to fight against the Ukrainian troops.[29] During this combat an important role was taken by young Polish city defenders called Lwów Eaglets.

The Ukrainian forces withdrew outside Lviv's confines by 21 November 1918, after which elements of Polish soldiery begun to loot and burn much of the Jewish and Ukrainian quarters of the city..."

Diversity Is Strength !

5371 said...

--In Polish, "rosyjski" means "Russian" as in the Russian state or nation, while "ruski" is a mildly insulting term connoting Russian disorder and ignorance.

And do you know what "polnische Wirtschaft" means in German?

Jerry said...

-No need to get personal and snippy here. It's all true. Kapuscinski called it the "three screws" attitude. As in, "Why screw in four screws when three are enough?" Or as another Polish saying has it, "From the East even the wind is bad." Confirmed dramatically by Chernobyl in 1986!

Anonymous said...

"Ukraine's President appears to be gone from Kiev"

I guess he didn't have an Empress Theodora to stiffen his spine.


Anonymous said...

Just looking at the Wiki for Lviv (""Lwów", "Lvov", and "Lemberg" redirect here").

Polish (of Jewish ancestry but not culture) science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem was born in Lwów in 1921.


Anonymous said...

"I've been reading up like crazy for the last few days on Ukrainian affairs, and I've ended up more confused than ever. I simply have no idea who are the good guys & who the bad guys"

One side is good guys being used by bad guys while the other side is bad guys being used by good guys.

Ideally Putin would cut a deal with the Ukraine nationalists that doesn't involve them joining EUSUK - which is ideologically anti-nationalist - thus shutting out both sets of bad guys.

Alternatively Putin needs to take out the conduits of neocon money being used to stir things up.

Separately, the bad guys were always going to do something during Sochi and in a way this is better than paying some Chechens to blow up an apartment building as at least this way the dead are volunteers.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many blog posts you can get out of the formula "A" is vaguely reminiscent of "B". As a non-expert I will guess and say... 120 million.

Anonymous said...

"steve sailer is like listening to dennis miller calling monday night football."

How is this not a complete insult? Dennis Miller was an absolutely terrible MNF caster.

Anonymous said...

Is this a joke? We actively supported the generals who crushed the Egyptian uprising. We also actively supported Mubarak until the very end.

vinteuil said...

@anon 6:28:

"One side is good guys being used by bad guys while the other side is bad guys being used by good guys."

OK, so far so interesting. But, for my better understanding:

(1) who are the good guys using bad guys & who are the bad guys being used by good guys?

(2) who are the bad guys using good guys - & who are the good guys being used by bad guys?

The remainder of your post doesn't make any of this very clear, except that you seem to be favorably disposed towards Putin.

Anonymous said...

It happens alot if you commit the crime of noticing things.

Anonymous said...

The Chicago Cubs and the White Sox handle their rivalry differently. The sox fans root for the sox and whoever is playing against the cubs. Cubs fans ignore the sox.
I lived in Chicago in the 60s and 70s. Sox fans considered themselves to be the privileged class and all others to be trash. The leading politicians and the wealthy were sox fans. Sox fans were arrogant and looked down on the good people. The sox players also did not sign autographs for the fans. This was not beneath them. It was difficult to get to sox park. You had to run through a corridor of gangs who would attack lone fans or small groups. Everyone knew someone who was attacked going to sox park. I had to flee from gangs once.
Sox fans were anti intellectual. They did not see the need to study at school since dad had the connections to get them a good job for the city. I never met a sox fan in college.
Cub fans were the smart ones, the educated, the creative ones, the salt of the earth. Wrigley field was in a slum neighborhood, but we always felt safe. Parents would use Wrigley field as a babysitting service. They drop the kids off and pick them up after the game. the players were friendly and signed autographs. We always called Wrigley field, "The friendly confines." It was such a heartbreaker when they lost in 1969. We thought the good guys were going to win that year.

Anonymous said...

steve- I'd like to think I was responsible for bringing your attention to Celtic vs. Rangers from an earlier thread. If you are interested in fully *getting* Celtic vs. Rangers, which is a VERY VERY important part of Scottish/Irish/Northern Irish history I'd recommend this video
as it goes to much better detail than a simple wiki link.
(also: Go LINFIELD!)

scottlocklin said...

I don't know that the Green versus Blue events have much parallel in Kiev. I always figured it was Italian soccer hooligans (Rome has several teams whose fans hate each other), or something like the Palio di Siena which got out of hand.

One of the things which are odd about the Byzantine chariot team riots is that they only happened when they did, with the ferocity they did. I vaguely recall some other such riots in Rome (also over chariot races), but they were nowhere near as serious as in late Byzantium.

While it's always fun to talk about class, it might have been somewhat geographically influenced. Maidan conflicts certainly are. If you've ever been there; the place is positively designed to have government overthrowing riots. It is the third one since 2000, after all.