Sports as a unifier
Sports are an extraordinary part of American culture. In our day when most civic, national and religious institutions are viewed in scorn and disrepute, athletic competitions are one of the few areas that endure as a national beacon.
It may be a commentary on modern American culture to look upon a society in such a light. Should we be concerned about the state of our institutions? Should cynicism rule the day? Nevertheless, the answers to these questions, while critically important, do not negate the powerful binding force that athletic events provide our community.
In earlier eras, there were many ways for a mechanism to bind communities together. A common crisis or a common enemy might be a force that would keep a tribe united. Bonds of brotherly affection would preserve group identity. Even today, families maintain some of this effect. Ethnic or national pride could be source of identity. Faith can be a source of unity, but even if it was well established, modern doctrines about the separation of God from civic life would stymie any attempts to build unity around this area.
There is so much hope out there for each of us and all of us. Nevertheless, with the deficit of unity among people in our day, most of us have resorted to smaller groups to find community. Smaller groups offer the intimacy that is more conducive to the tribal structure that may be most natural for human beings. We can find unity in groups that share our interests, even if they do not lend much support when looking at a scope that is nationwide.
There is one institution that still has the power to draw in the crowds on a national level. What we have to decide here is whether this is a sustainable force that will unite us as the American people. This is rooted around football, baseball and other sports leagues.
Sports competitions have the power to create riots in Southwest. University of Massachusetts games can draw large crowds at McGuirk Alumni Stadium or the Mullins Center. While we may have to call December by the title “holiday season,” there is no doubt that there is a Sunday early in the year that we all unambiguously call Superbowl Sunday, a major holiday in its own right, that brings together vastly diverse populations.
There may be a difference between men and women on this topic. While any question that might indicate that women are less interested in sports than men can be considered sexist, there does seem to be less of an interest among women in vast sports events. I know some women are sports fanatics in their own right, but I don’t know of vast swaths of women that have trouble tearing themselves away from the television set on any given Sunday.
Even those of us who have had a distance from sports in our younger days can still appreciate the effects of its power to pull us together. Those of us not so engaged in the game are generally willing to get excited about these sports events even if the actual game isn’t exciting for us.
We need to know for sure that sports can be sustainable as an institution that would bind all of us together in society. Are there other institutions that continue to serve as a unifying force in society that would cross all natural and artificial barriers among people?
We need to address these issues in the nation and in our smaller communities. Each of us has to meet our neighbors and get together on common goals. We definitely need individual initiative, but we need community as well.
If we continue on a present course without institutions that can draw us together like sports can, but do not have any deeper roots, this could be problematic in the long term.
The Roman Empire had exciting gladiatorial matches while it was crumbling. If we continue in this present course, we could see our American Empire follow the same path. There are certainly many people in the world who would welcome this.
This scenario could even be for the best for the world. As Americans, is this is something about which we should be eagerly anticipating? Instead, we should seek to establish our values and our institutions. Even if we reject the values of our forefathers and pick new modern values, this would be better than a course of no direction. As we enjoy the remaining NFL games this season, this is something that we should really think about during the commercials.
Eric Magazu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.