As we head toward fall, I plan on posting a piece on "going local" from time to time. This week, let's start with something downright American: sports. In fact, in a strange way, rooting for our local university's basketball team is what originally pushed me to go to farmer's markets, explore my city, appreciate the climate, etc. That initial love of something local, peripheral as basketball may be, pushed me to seek new ways to support local people, businesses, and athletics.
I have blogged before about how television undercuts all that's good about athletics. To paraphrase something I said a couple of year's ago on my hoops blog:
Fans cannot tailgate with college buddies through television. There is no virtual or Hi-Def replacement for the smell of popcorn wafting into my section at Diddle Arena. In basketball, a last second shot to win the game registers as a measly two points in a computer-generated fantasy league, but in reality it wields the terrible power to spark jubilation or strike crushing despair into thousands of hearts the moment it hits the bottom of the net. It can suck the air out of an arena, or send it into total pandemonium. There is no plasma screen that can replicate nippy winter walks to a college stadium with wives, children, and family, nor the rush of warm air that hits your face as you click through the turnstile. Instead of encountering the power of a fight song or alma mater ringing in your ears, you get muted crowd noise with a "Brought to you by...State Farm Insurance" promo. Instead of engaging in halftime conversation with the elderly, living encyclopedia sitting next to you who has had season tickets for thirty-five years, you get an army of talking heads in suits and cakey make-up yammering at one another, all wrapped in more rapid-fire rounds of commercials.
We have a local university (WKU) that sells season football tickets for $25. That's for the ENTIRE season. To be clear: that's five college football games for $25. I once paid $125 for ONE game at Ohio State. Twenty-five bucks gives you access to five weekends to pack up the grill and head to campus with friends and family to tailgate, barbecue, throw around the pigskin, and interact with others from your community. Five weekends to meet someone new on the South Lawn. Five weekends to cheer in unison with thousands of others for a local team.
If the response to this is, "Yeah, but WKU is not playing anyone worth watching," then please go ahead and click on the TV and begin the game watching. Many fall prey to ESPN's ploys which cultivate the idea that the only important football is played by a handful of schools that play on TV every week. ESPN is a TV network! Of course, they would LOVE to foster this idea!
No, this is a chance to enjoy high level, local sports for a minimal financial investment. When a family of four can invest $100, and spend five Saturdays eating together, cheering together, connecting to something local together, it is at least worth thinking about.
Maybe football is not your bag, and that is perfectly fine. The message here is that this is just one of many ways to connect locally.
Do you want perfect picture resolution? Go see the game IN THE STADIUM. Do you want perfect color and amazing clarity? Try the view from Section HH. Do you want to go beyond Hi-Def? Try the real thing.
It not only works for football; it works for most areas of life.