Prior to the Badgers-Hoosiers football game, I was strolling along State Street in Madison Wisconsin with my friend, Dr. Aristotle Tziampiris while he explained how college football serves a particular function in our society.
"In her celebrated and terrifying short story, The Lottery, Shirley Jackson portrays a ritual that successfully brings together a New England community every year. Spoiler alert: It involves the random choosing and stoning of a community member. However, in real life, America has developed a much safer and effective way to unite otherwise disparate communities -- College Football," explained Dr. Tziampiris.
Among our peripatetic group (visiting Madison from New York City) were successful UW-Madison alumni, all wearing Badger red. This led to several serendipitous encounters with bus drivers, students and assorted homeless people on a cold, rainy and otherwise miserable morning. To them we were not perfect strangers but rather friends of sorts. All of them shouted "go badgers!," except the bus driver who honked and the homeless man who actually yelled "Go Fu**king Badgers!!"
Well, one could think that such a group of people does not have much -- or anything really -- in common, but think again! Sure, there may be differences in terms of their circumstances in life, but it turns out that they all share a common, strong bond that has the power to bring them together with a sense of camaraderie and equality: their unabiding love -- verging on obsession -- for the Badgers football team.
On any given Saturday, a community like the one in Madison Wisconsin is not divided by class, race or creed but instead united by their football team. Tens of thousands of students, alumni and residents go to the stadium after enjoying tailgating and other pre-game festivities. Children love it and get socialized in the experience and its dynamic from an early age. Prior to the game we met self-described "awesome fans," Grace and Sydelle, both eight years old.
On game day, you also have cheerleaders, a marching band, coaches and of course the players, all working hard weeks in advance to raise the spirits of those watching the game. In effect, a Saturday college football game requires many demands, including the concerted efforts and participation of an entire community. And this pays dividends, not just in terms of actual dollars, but far more importantly about this country's direction. Multiply what we witnessed at Madison by the dozens of places where football is played every week and you have the makings of unifying glue for an otherwise disparate nation. All politicians should pay close attention; there is much to be learned from college football.