Can a football victory influence an election?
My father was a public defender in Philadelphia for nearly three decades. You work in any business that long, you tend to pick up on some tendencies. One of his theories is that when the Philadelphia Eagles win on Sunday, juries are more lenient on Monday.
But if the Eagles lose…watch out.
Winning has a funny way of bringing communities together, of making people feel that they are part of something. Losing has a way of making us feel isolated and angry, and as if we belong to a loser town or loser city or a loser country…and we feel like losers for spending three hours watching the team lose.
A theory is just a theory, but it is interesting to apply this train of thought to the second round of the Colombian presidential election scheduled for June 15.
The main point of debate between incumbent Juan Manuel Santos and challenger Óscar Iván Zuluaga is their approach to the civil conflict that has tortured Colombia for decades. As we have written before, right now, the guerrilla forces are weak. President Santos wants to make peace with the FARC. Zuluaga, influenced by his mentor, former President Álvaro Uribe, wants to wipe them off the map.
How interesting, then, that on June 14, the Colombian national football team played its first World Cup game since the disastrous 1994 campaign (gratuitous own-goal link here).
Colombian outlets used preexisting models that suggest victories prior to elections favor the incumbent (a link has long been suspected). They used the model to determine that the Santos vote could receive a bump of 300,000 votes if the national team wins.
But this model solely considered incumbent vs. challenger. Not war vs peace.
And what the Colombian national football team did on June 14 was about as uplifting a performance as one could imagine.
Not only did the team post a convincing 3-0 victory over a tough Greek side, but they looked good doing it. They played with passion and confidence and joy. The racially mixed team represented a dream of a united Colombia.
Played under bright blue skies in Belo Horizonte, the packed stadium was awash in Colombian yellow, with the flag ubiquitously displayed throughout the stadium.
The setting seemed befit for a country experiencing a moment of optimism–again in stark contrast to the 1994 World Cup team that deteriorated on the field just as Colombia was descending into a dark period of violence.
I have to believe that such a game could have an uplifting effect on Colombians. This is not to say that a couple of goals can somehow heal the grave wounds of war that so many Colombians carry.
But it is to say that on June 14 the Colombian national team and the Colombian fans showed what the country is capable of if they reach a lasting peace.
We’ll see if Colombians carry that optimism to the polls on June 15.