The headline above was from The Onion last week. Like most articles in the satirical newspaper and website that calls itself “America’s Finest News Source,” the headline contains as much punch as the article that follows.
If you found it mildly funny (as, presumably, the 300 or so people who tweeted it directly from the site did), why? What is the underlying “truth” that the joke is riffing off?
Could it be that it’s playing on our instinctive, but usually inarticulate, understanding of the difference between ethics in “everyday” contexts, on the one hand, and ethics in “competitive” contexts, on the other?
In everyday contexts we teach children how to use “indoor voices” so they will not bother or annoy other people they are sharing space with. Like much of everyday ethics, it is designed to facilitate cooperation and solve collective-action problems (or in this case, collectively-sharing-space problems). You show respect for others, and make things go better for them, by piping down in their proximity.
But the last thing we want in a sports arena is for everyone to be using their indoor voices and sitting on their hands. Indeed, as discussed by student bloggers on this very blog recently (here and here), rowdy home-side spectators are part of the attraction and entertainment-value of sports for everyone. Even when that crowd noise is deliberately trying to help your team, and distract or demoralize the visitors, we all think that is perfectly acceptable from an ethical point of view. (Which is not to deny that there are limits to what kind of fan behavior is acceptable, as the previous posts emphasized.)
The great thing about satire is that it captures all of that in a headline or a caption. It takes a philosopher to spend 300 words sucking all the fun out of it.