Saints Dolphins Football

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton supervises an NFL training session at the London Irish rugby team training ground in the Sunbury-on-Thames suburb of south west London, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. The New Orleans Saints are preparing for an NFL regular season game against the Miami Dolphins at London's Wembley stadium on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton has developed a new pattern of violating a fundamental rule of human behavior. That is saying something people don’t want to hear. Most of us typically will say things we think people want to hear. If a woman asks if the dress she’s wearing makes her look fat, most will say no, even if it makes her look so big she requires her own Zip code.

But these days, politics has motivated many of us, including Coach Payton, to say things knowing full well it will anger many. As a country, we have split along ideological lines gravitating toward groupthink and tribalism. Saying anything political will be met with resistance and scorn. We do it anyway. I think that’s a good thing.

Coach Payton had to know back in April of last year after former Saints player Will Smith was tragically shot to death, his calling for stricter gun control would not sit well with many in red-state Louisiana. And then a couple of weeks ago, Payton praised the 10 Saints players sitting during the national anthem, saying he was proud of them. But the coach wasn’t finished. He also questioned the wisdom of our current president. The very same president who overwhelmingly won the state in which Payton coaches.

Coach Payton has apparently gotten used to his newfound political punditry, doubling down on his passion for gun control this past week by calling for it once again after the Las Vegas shooting.

Even though I disagree with Payton on his views, I admire him for having the courage to express them. He will pay a price for it in that some will place their allegiance to their worldview above their loyalty to their football team.

At least Coach Payton isn’t as harsh and vitriolic as others calling for gun control. A Facebook friend of mine is extremely passionate about the issue. The Las Vegas shooting motivated him to post this about his heartache that the gun control debate seems to be over:

“It was over when America decided that two dozen dead first- and second-graders were an acceptable price to pay for the right to own weapons that exist for no other purpose than killing large numbers of people in a short amount of time. All that's left for us to do now is document record-breaking atrocity after record-breaking atrocity.”

My friend's assertion that those opposing gun control are OK with the Sandy Hook massacre is obviously misguided, absurd and foggy thinking caused by an over-the-top emotional tantrum.

I understand why this is a such a gut-level issue for gun control zealots. If what they believe is true, which is conservatives are OK with the mass shooting of kids, they should be outraged. This further illustrates the divide that separates us ideologically. Unfortunately, conservatives often see leftists as nuts, and many leftists view conservatives as evil. It’s hard to unite with that dynamic in play.

So what do we do about all of this dissension, disunity, and enmity between us? Keep our deeply held views to ourselves? Of course not. Truth is, we couldn’t if we tried. We are all closely married to our beliefs and take them very personally. They are a part of who we are.

What would be nice is if we could find the strength, grit, and determination to stop assuming the worst of each other. As a conservative, it appears to me this problem is much more severe and common from my friends on the left, but then again, I am obviously biased. My fellow conservatives should stop thinking leftists are crazy just because we view their logic as nutty, emotionally based, and unreasonable.

I think Coach Payton may have struck the right cord. He courageously expressed controversial opinions without insulting anyone, assigning malice, or questioning motives. I heard once that we are never weaker in our arguments than when we attempt to explain what motivates those we are debating. None of us can see inside the human heart. We would all do well to remember that.

Dan Fagan, a former TV and radio broadcaster who lives in Metairie, writes a column that appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Email him at