11/13/2014 06:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Lesson in Politics, Sports and Sweet Potatoes


As a proud North Carolina liberal with a degree from the University of North Carolina, last week wasn't pleasant. I watched our Democratic senator loose to a Republican and witnessed my alma mater relinquish a piece of its stellar reputation. So I went and gleaned potatoes because I'm sick of people who get dirty or maybe just don't get dirty enough.

Muck-raking Politics:

The ads between the Republican and Democratic candidates were the typical nasty norm that we, as a perceived dumbed-down nation, have come to accept. Facebook friends on both sides of the political spectrum followed suit with the horrors of the "other guy."

Senator Kay Hagan, like many Democrats, distanced herself from Obama rather than embraced his accomplishments in an extremely difficult time for our country. We Democrats handed the victory to the other team.

So the Republicans won.

I got up the day after elections and I made a really snarky comment to my husband, who is a Republican. Typically we have the quiet "agree to disagree" motto in our home. I wasn't quiet November 5.

Lee rarely gets angry with me and I know it's not because I rarely give him reason. He gets cranky when he can't find his keys or one of my five cats jumps on his desk, but with me, he simply chooses to focus on the good we can accomplish when we aren't looking at the negatives.

"If you wanted to talk issues, you should have voiced them before today. Today you're just pissed. Admit it," he said.

I shot back some obtuse remarks to muddy up the waters and hide the fact that he was right. Later we didn't go to bed angry. We just went to bed.

I run a small horse boarding business. The next morning I went out to the barn to unload hay off my truck. I found the bales already stacked neatly against the wall.

This wasn't Lee's way of keeping peace or apologizing. He typically helps me with this task. What did not go unnoticed by me, however, was that he wasted no time moving forward. I think I was planning to wallow a little while. He had no interest in staying stuck from the day before. Stacking hay would get us somewhere.

Politicians, whether in North Carolina or beyond, focus on nothing but rumination - a compulsive attention to symptoms, causes, consequences. It's never about common ground that both parties can bring to the table to move forward. It's about who is willing to get the dirtiest for their party.

Squeaky clean UNC:

And so I move on to my alma mater and its mire. And there's a mound of it. The oldest university in the nation just got brought down to its knees by a report of academic fraud and athletes that went on for nearly twenty years.

We Tar Heels, in the words of my dearly-departed mother, don't know whether to shit or wind our watches because we've never gotten dirty.

We only know of two people complicit in this egregious situation. But with the breadth and scope, we have to know others played a role. And if we don't get it, there will be a rival NC State fan or the NCAA who will be happy to draw us a diagram.

We handed those opposing fans a big fat win.

There are some academics within our own ranks that, despite their myriad of degrees, ignorantly believe we should banish or greatly curtail our athletic programs as if to say our victories on the field or court have played no role in funding academic excellence at our school.

There are others so blinded by a baby blue uniform, they cannot take off their rose-colored glasses long enough to see the flaws.

This happens at all universities with winning athletic programs.

Well let's just try that on some fan whose team isn't plastered all over ESPN Sports for violations, not victories, and see how far we get?

So what do we do with all this dirt?

Do we turn it into smut? Or do we look for ways to unearth real solutions?

Jason Brown, a former Tar Heel and NFL football player, knows how to get dirty. (No matter where he played as an undergraduate, he would inspire me to write this article.)

Jason was released from the St. Louis Rams in 2012. He came back to North Carolina, bought 1000 acres of land and started farming. He knew little about growing crops, but he had a calling to feed the hungry. So he planted some sweet potatoes and, with the incredible efforts by the Society of St. Andrew, donated them to various charities that feed the hungry throughout our state.

Sixty thousand pounds of sweet potatoes from various farmers so far have been gleaned from the fertile soil of the beautiful, rural farmland near Louisburg, North Carolina.

From the Walmart employee who drove the company's food bank big rig to someone with a Dodge Ram 1500, those sweet potatoes were gleaned and delivered to various organizations by liberals and conservatives of all colors, ages, educational backgrounds and fan affiliations. For several weeks now, they've stood side by side out in those fields and unearthed a solution to a real problem in this country -- hunger.

These potatoes will get delivered by giant corporate America to big North Carolina food banks and by individuals with pick ups who will drop them off at small homeless shelters and churches whose volunteers will then distribute these magnificent roots to people who need a good, healthy meal.

Why have we lost Team America?

I hope my newly-elected senator, Thom Tillis, will read about this sweet potato story and glean a few things of his own about the power of people with varying beliefs who can come together and solve problems. To wish for his failure serves no purpose.

I will advocate for candidates to dare to give real answers whether in ads, debates or speeches. I'm sick of the words "my opponent," as a campaign strategy.

I will get more involved next time in helping people get to the polls to vote.

I hope all those who work, teach, coach, play sports or cheer for the oldest and most vibrant university in the nation will understand the power of one shining moment at the end of March is a result of many diverse sides working together, being accountable and following the rules of the game.

You can have a PhD and gleefully turn bat-shit nuts come game time. That is the pure joy and privilege of being a Tar Heel. We haven't lost that, but we've got some digging to do to find it again.

Wishing on rainbows and unicorns you ask? I know my moderate views aren't exciting or new. I think they've just gotten buried deep in this country.

Instead, I'm banking on sweet potatoes and those who, when they've lost, turn around, come clean and move in a far better direction.