The broader implications of this epiphany did not truly become apparent until I returned to the US, when I ate dinner at my mother’s friend’s house. After dinner, I was forced to spend time with her kids, whom I had never met before, and came from completely different circumstances. Initially, we sat around in awkward silence. After a few minutes of painful small talk, almost by chance, we began to discuss the Seattle Sounders, and their prospects for the upcoming season. We had finally found some common ground. For the next four hours, we discussed sports of every variety, from the NBA to the Cricket World Cup. The initial awkwardness had completely vanquished, and we found that we enjoyed each other’s company. The connection between that evening and the value of the mainstream was elucidated later that night, when I reflected on similar experiences that I had had in the past. Whenever I’m at a party or social gathering where I meet new people, the way that I connect with others is by talking about popular sports, movies, or TV shows. Many of my peers decry the perceived sexism or Darwinism in sport. And indeed several of my closest friends scoff at the four major American athletic pastimes. Yet knowing about sports (a cornerstone of American culture) has often come in handy during new and unfamiliar situations – it is my tool for connecting with new people. In fact, one of my best friends in the whole world is from a completely different social, economic, and racial background. When we met five years ago at camp, we bonded over our love of basketball. For me, embracing the mainstream allows me to empathize with and engage with people from completely different social circumstances. Were we to apply this principle to broader society, rather than pursuing the intellectual for its own sake, some of the adverse effects socioeconomic divergence might be halted, and perhaps even reversed. So yes, there is much value to popular culture.
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