Balls and Chains

Religion and sports fandom don't allow you to trade away facts for unprovable opinion.

As David Roth pointed out in his brilliant takedown of Chris Berman's pre-election interview nonsense: “Sports radio sounds like political talk radio, and political talk radio sounds like sports radio, and all of it is awful – fake, cruel, dumb and loud.” But there's a third arena of sweating blowhards to throw into that triumvirate of terrible: religious nuts.

This story out of Italy from last week inevitably merges the two: Fans of the Italian soccer club S.S. Lazio – the S.S., as you'll see, being coincidental at best, inciting at worst – attacked fans of the English soccer club Tottenham while shouting a whole bunch of anti-Semitic slurs. (Tottenham apparently has a pretty large Jewish following.) This really is an extension of the personality trait that can make the most rabid sports fan and/or righteous religious zealot: An ability to cast aside reality to fulfill a need to belong to “something bigger”. When you believe you're rooting for the “right team”, whether that's due to politics or being born in a certain sports franchise's media market or because your parents believe in a specific invisible higher power, you're allowed to trade away facts for unprovable opinion. It's just that, in the religious version, you can back that up with some deadly violence and feel right doing so. This life's just a precursor to the next, after all.

Onto the roundup!

- Before the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, a whole lot of shit went down: Iran told Pakistan to stop negotiating and just continue rocketing; Hamas staged fake deaths in front of news cameras; Israel made a hilariously bad and barely-viewed South Park-esque satiric cartoon; a whole bunch of rockets were fired; Hamas publicly executed six men accused of spying for Israel; a bomb was detonated on a bus in Tel Aviv, injuring 28 people. Also of note: A leading Islamic cleric deemed it an official sin to violate the ceasefire. As if that'll work.

- Afghanistan agreed to unblock YouTube, which has been shut down for the past two months since that Innocence of Muslims trailer/video/thing nonsense.

- Saudi Arabia implemented an electronic tracking system for women that sends their “male guardians” a text message alert if they leave the country.

- Thanksgiving was a particularly bloody day in Pakistan: A total of 37 people were killed in six separate attacks across the country, due to everything from gunmen to suicide bombers to remote-controlled explosives. Later in the week, six more people were killed after a bomb was detonated during a Shia Muslim procession.

- Not only does Thanksgiving mean it's officially time for radio stations to start broadcasting Christmas music 24/7, but it's also time for Christians to start going on and on about the make believe War on Christmas. The first shot-across-the-bow: Pat Robertson, who believes atheists “don't like our happiness.” 

- In Ireland, 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar died after being denied an abortion by her doctors because it's “a Catholic country”. This tragedy led to over 10,000 people marching through Dublin to demand abortion law reform.

- Rev. Roy Bourgeois has been officially expelled from the Catholic Church after he continually supported the ordination of women. “The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away,” he said. A statement from the church, meanwhile, said that he was “ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful across the country” by supporting the equality of women.

- The Church of England had its own female-related problems after they voted to reject the appointment of women as bishops. The thing with this, though, is that female priests already account for one-third of the church's clergy, almost making this more damning as they can't use the old “tradition” excuse like the Catholics.

- The secret goings-on of a Christian-based prayer group in Kansas City – including a whole bunch of hot gay sex parties and some drugging and raping – were revealled following the suicide of the leader's wife. And by “suicide” I mean “maybe murder”, seeing as one of the revelations was that the leader, Tyler Deaton, killed her and had his group cover it up. Also fun: Deaton's one of those “ex-gays” who demonises homosexuals.

- Doing some updating after the 2012 election, The Economist put together a map of gay marriage rights around the world. Not surprisingly, most of the countries that are mentioned regularly in this column's more-violent passages criminalise homosexuality. But what's possibly more shocking is just how many countries don't really give a shit, meaning the southern and middle parts of the US are technically some of the least tolerant places on the planet.

- Marco Rubio, most definitely in the conversation for the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination, said: “Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.” Science replied: “Earth is about 4.4 billion years old.”

- Buzzfeed has some screenshots from text books used in a Louisiana fifth-grade science class that make it seem like pretty much a coin-toss whether evolution or creationism is correct.

- Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Islamic militant gunman from the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that resulted in 166 deaths, was hung in India.

- Eleven people died after a pair of car bombs blew up outside of a Protestant church in Nigeria.

- A lawyer who works for the Alliance Defending Freedom foundation – a nonprofit Christian organisation that hates the gays – decided to spend some non-billable hours taking a teenage girl to Canada and talking her into filming some underage porn

- And Our Person of the Week: Alex Gibney, filmmaker behind Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, which is a documentary about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. While I've yet to see the film – send me a screener already, HBO Films! – Gibney's expansive interview with Movieline details a few of the horrific stories the doc examines.

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