Mass Distraction

Hundreds (if not thousands) of bloggers commented on last weekend’s tragic events in El Paso and Dayton. A search of either city on the WordPress website produces an endless list of posts. As it should be. Some of us process by writing; others by reading. Within these countless perspectives are paragraphs to help us cope, reflect, heal, and begin to move on. Not that we should move on; not at all. Like 9/11, the loss of life is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to a modicum of positive change.

Politicians will debate this issue relentlessly; their credibility questionable in concert with partisan agendas and unrealistic campaign promises. The media will focus on band-aid suggestions which appear to address the issue but don’t land anywhere close to its foundations. Regardless, if all this attention – misguided as it may be – leads to constructive conversation and heightened awareness, we’re taking a step in the right direction. The capacity for mass murder is far more complicated than we want to admit.

I tried several times this week to blog as normal. I found the usual du jour topics worth delving into. Yet every time I started typing I was distracted, for at least a couple of reasons. One, any topic besides this one would be utterly trivial by comparison. Two, any topic besides this one suggests my head – and my heart – are not where they should be.

Do I know anyone in El Paso? No, I don’t, nor in Dayton. Doesn’t matter. I still grieve for the victims and their families. After all, these are fellow countrymen and women. These are people I believe share similar values and a love of country, regardless of race, political persuasion, and all the other so-called differentiators. These are people I’d be delighted to run into if I were halfway around the world. They are far from strangers.

American flags fly at half-staff this week, as if our country needs a reminder of a horrific behavior already ingrained in our culture for decades. My own reminder is my inability to adequately express my myriad feelings today. Perhaps the writings of my fellow bloggers will bring me solace.

Speaking of other writers, my thanks to Feeding On Folly, who re-posted Mitch Teemley’s “The 32 Second Killing Spree” (read it here). Mitch’s post narrows the issue to the specifics we need to consider and the questions we must answer. Here’s one answer. Good and evil will always coexist, but we have to find a way to tip the scales a little more towards the good. If only for them.

I’ll be back next week, less troubled and a little more hopeful. At least, that’s the plan.

American Pastime

Over the next three months, on any given Saturday, the spotlight of college athletics will shine brightly on football. Millions of fans will flock to stadiums (or in one instance, a motor speedway) to witness this most American of sports. Tailgate parties will crop up hours before kickoff.  Team-branded merchandise will fly off shelves to the tune of millions of dollars.  Broadcasters will endlessly debate one team’s merits versus another’s shortcomings.  It’s fair to say college football will be a more consuming topic than the presidential election.

60-indelible

Last weekend my family and I experienced the unique opportunity to attend two college football games in Texas on consecutive days. UCLA played Texas A&M in College Station on Saturday, where A&M’s Aggies won in thrilling fashion in overtime. Then Notre Dame played Texas in Austin on Sunday, where UT’s Longhorns also won in thrilling fashion in double overtime. On Friday we could’ve added yet another game, passing through Waco as Baylor opened its season against Northwestern State.

Here are a few college football statistics for your consideration:

  • There are well over 100 NCAA Division 1 college football teams competing on any given Saturday of the season.
  • The combined attendance to last weekend’s games involving at least one team in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 was over 1.5 million fans. That included UCLA-Texas A&M (100,443) and Notre Dame-Texas (102,315 – an all-time record for a Texas home game).
  • The face value of a major college football game ticket is around $100 this year.  Accordingly last Saturday’s AP Top 25 games alone generated $150 million (not counting merchandise, concessions, and parking).
  • There are eight college football stadiums in the U.S. with more than 100,000 seats, and another twenty-two stadiums with more than 75,000 seats.  The largest NFL football stadium has 82,500 seats.
  • Next Saturday’s college football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN).  The 150,000 fans expected in the grandstands will shatter the all-time record for college football single-game attendance.

Sure, college football has some impressive numbers.  The game will only get more popular.  Yet last weekend also reminded me there are more indelible memories than the game or the venue itself.  Consider:

  • The heart-warming spirit of hometown Texas A&M.  As a fan of the opposing team, the reception in College Station is akin to a stranger inviting you into his living room for sweet tea and cookies.  I lost track of how many Aggies welcomed us to campus, wished our team well, or simply thanked us for making the trip.  Their politeness is downright 1950’s-sitcom.  With that in mind, add See a football game in College Station to your bucket list.
  • A&M’s Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.  Also known as the Corps of Cadets, the four hundred musicians comprise the largest military marching band in the world.  Their movements are so coordinated and precise you’d swear you were looking at a computer-generated equivalent.  One Aggie actually apologized to me for the “old-fashioned” feel of the Corp.  On the contrary; it was one of the most impressive halftime shows I’ve ever seen.
  • The Littlest Fans.  Texas A&M and Texas alike draw a healthy number of families to their games.  My favorites are the little ones: those fans between the ages of 5 and 15.  They’re decked out in their team colors and face paint, with shiny hair ribbons and pom-poms.  We had several of them sitting right in front of us at the Notre Dame-Texas game.  Their innocence and unabashed enthusiasm were priceless.

My advice after my mega-weekend of college football?  Ditch the television.  GO to a game and see what you’re missing.  There happens to be one this Saturday, and not far from where you live.