Last night, I made a financially imprudent, but heart-felt, decision to forego seeing Swan Lake at Lincoln Center. Instead I stayed home to watch the University of Oklahoma-Florida State football game. Having grown up in Oklahoma and graduated from the University of Oklahoma, the love of the game is imprinted on my DNA. This devotion to college ball is passed from generation-to-generation, and I believe is particularly cherished by those who are no longer in the Sooner state. The ties to our team provide an attachment to Norman and our college years.
From the comfort of my well-worn “barcalounger,” with my laptop fired up, I watched the tense game alone, but I was “connected” to other Oklahomans by way of Facebook. I must admit that I was concerned about the outcome, before the game started and—truth be told—until the clock ran out. While my Sooners were ranked #1 in the nation, they were playing a strong #5 FSU team, in Tallahassee. FSU has a storied football history, with long-time coach Bobby Bowden, and the stadium was filled with tens of thousands of ‘Noles, regularly breaking into what I consider to be the annoying Tomahawk Chop. (Beyond my personal distaste for the tradition, many of Native American background are especially offended…. but I digress). The game was heavy on defense, but at the end of the day, we beat the Seminoles, 23-13. The team was led by Quarterback and Heisman hopeful Landry Jones, who of course was named for the famed Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. Ah, the Circle of Life.
I know some find my attachment to sports curious and perhaps even a misplaced priority. I beg to differ, for so very many reasons. Team sports are an important element of childrearing in America. Kids all over America are part of soccer, softball, and football teams, among many other sports. Team sports teach kids about cooperation, dedication, determination, and the ability to overcome challenges and deal with setbacks. And while many people fall away from participating in the sports of their youth, the devotion to a college or professional team fosters a sense of community and kinship. I relish college game days here in New York where local pubs become hangouts for particular teams. (A favorite of mine on the Upper East Side is the Mad River Bar that gathers Wisconsin fans—there is an 8 foot blow up “Badger” that greets guests at the door.)
Dedication to sports teams is not just about bragging rights. I believe that sports provide much more. One can point to a whole variety of programs that use sports as tools to assist potentially at-risk kids and more profoundly, to promote progressive social change. Here in New York, “Harlem RBI,” employs baseball to help challenged kids at home and in school. From a global perspective groups like “Right to Play,” support sports programs in the most difficult, war-torn parts of the world.
So after our victory around 11:30 p.m., I turned in. To quote Winston Churchill, “I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.” Okay, I guess I am a little over the top.