IN COLUMBUS, OHIO it is a common joke to say that Ohio State football is the town’s official religion. And it’s true that being a fan of the team is an unspoken “in” to people’s trust and cooperation. We’re united under the Scarlet and Gray in a nod to more than just a shared love of the Buckeyes. What we also relish is having something to get excited over that allows us, for a little while, to put aside the distance that often exists between people and just BE together.
Here are just a few lighthearted instances of this connecting phenomenon at work:
- I’ve had numerous grocery store cashiers accept my expired coupons simply because I was wearing a piece of Ohio State swag, telling their managers in explanation simply, “She’s a Buckeye.” After a quick perusal of my person to verify my credentials, coupons worth tens of dollars have been miraculously moved to the “active” pile.
- During a Financial Management course I once took, comprised of about 100 of us struggling schmucks, there was barely a peep out of anyone the entire class. So at the end of the course when our teacher recited the semi-mandatory mantra “Go Bucks” to close out the class, we scared her so much with our ultra-boisterous “GO BUCKS” in reply that she jumped right out of her skin and into the PowerPoint screen. From the floor where she landed she then let out a meek “O-H” that had us all in stitches.
On the opposite side of that coin, being unaware of what’s going on with the team is liable to get you a look like you may be a candidate for the loony bin. Case in point, a common greeting among friends is “Are you going to the game?” During my divorce I was so frazzled that I actually responded to this question with a “What game?” a few times. In both instances that this happened (with 2 separate friends), rather than answering me they instead patted my arm and asked how I was holding up.
Of course, some people get annoyed by all the hoopla that surrounds Buckeye football, but I’ve always found it a fascinating study in how, when we put our differences aside, we can come together so powerfully for a common cause. When gathering for a game, people don’t ask if you’re Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, a police officer or protestor of officer tactics. What they DO want to know is who you’re bringing with you to the game.
And if your invites are fans of the Blue, or that week’s competitor, you better come armed with an explanation. I’ve actually heard people say things like “He’s a Michigan fan – but it’s OK – he’s my AA sponsor” before inviting a friend or family member to someone’s home for the game from that team up north. It’s as if God may strike us dead with a Buckeye nut pelted from heaven if the proper level of chagrin and backstory aren’t shown for this transgression.
All other differences need no explanation. We put them aside to cooperate in having a rip-roaring good time. And even with Michigan fans, at the end of a day filled with razzing and cheering for opposite sides, we treat them with love. We feed them snacks (albeit Buckeye candies), congratulate them on the off-chance that they win the game, and send them off into their life with a wish for safe travels.
So now for the (*groan*) real-life lesson in all this. I’ll make it quick, since we’ve all got snacks to buy, starting quarterbacks to debate, and new t-shirts to purchase for Monday night’s opener:
In the “real” world, there’s a lot of dissent going on between people with different views of how the country should be run. Yet I’ve been hearing a common theme for the last several years that crosses party lines, income levels, and racial divides. It is that we are all very tired of our government continuing to be controlled by corporations and special interests. Speaking this out loud isn’t as fun as a watching a Buckeye game of course, but it can be. How?
We start by copying how we host fans of competing teams and pasting this into how we interact with fellow citizens whose opinions differ widely from ours. Doing this ensures that, despite our differences, we are a united front that has enough power to win at getting our leaders to be responsible to OUR needs again, instead of to those groups with the most moolah to spend.
So today I’m asking all members of the Buckeye Nation to make a commitment to take the idealism that we demonstrate towards our team and apply it to one issue of the day this season. Have someone over your house who you have to explain away to your friends and family, but not because they bleed Blue. Make it because they are on the exact opposite end of the political spectrum from you, or a member of a faith you rarely associate with, or they participated in the protests in Ferguson that you didn’t agree with, or they spoke out against those same protests. Feed them snacks, debate with them if you must, but when they leave your home make sure you’ve made their shared humanity with you more important than their differing viewpoint.
We’re National Champions. If anyone can lead the way in bonding us all as citizens of one nation again, and in taking back our power from an establishment that for too many decades has used our differences to control us with the green instead of uniting us under the red, white, and blue, it’s us. Let’s not let anyone convince us anymore that we are a hopelessly divided country. Our team, who are much younger than most of us, should not be better at cooperation than we are. Let’s make them proud. They’ve done as much for us.
And when the Saturday “services” start, and we scream out our collective prayer of “GO BUCKS”, may our efforts at better understanding each other off the field ensure that it is our team for once who are such fans of us that they reply back, “GO BUCKEYE NATION.”
Share your successful stories of cooperation this football season with us on Twitter @Enlightenment4S and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .