The Un-United State of College Football (Northwestern’s Union Dilemma)

The Psychology of Unity could be quite informative for Northwestern amidst their quandry

College athletics are at a crossroads and these roads are currently converging in Evanston, IL

By David Hauser

What do you do when the young people—schooled by a society hungry to teach unity, teamwork, and togetherness via the lessons from coaches and wins/losses in teams sports, and further empowered by the scholarships and education afforded to them by their play—harness all these teachings and join together to challenge the very system that insisted upon their need to internalize the value of teamwork in the first place?

This is the paradoxical quandary Northwestern University (along with the entire college athletics system) is left to sit with following the landmark decision from the NLRB Chicago regional office suggesting Northwestern football players have the right to unionize as a collective labor group.

Team sports are the training ground for where many of us learn to work in groups and unite toward common goals with one another.  As a psychologist working on both ends of the developmental spectrum, with parents and kids, I see more smiles and faces light up when talking about their Saturday mornings on the field with teammates (or sidelines with fellow parents), than of just about any other experience.  Sports, at their very best, are community.

Nowhere is this more visible than in college sports (especially college football), which inspires a brand of zealotry, passion, and connection among Americans to a degree not seen in any other sports landscape.  Regions develop and exhibit an entire collective identity based upon their football conference–brace yourself for an overdose of cocksureness if you ever dare engage a Southerner by suggesting any degree of ambiguity within the hierarchy of college football conferences (PSST-they may have a few strong opinions about the SEC).

In a historical era where organized religion attendance shrinks and the middle class work day expands (subsequently reducing opportunities for social gathering), more and more of our precious opportunity for communion is housed within stadium parking lot tailgates, high school homecoming pep rallies, and Saturday mornings at the little league field.  Our children are coached and encouraged to form and grow together as one unit, their fans band together around them in support, and within sports a primal need for togetherness is offered to a spiritually hungry group of people finding fewer and fewer outlets and time for union.

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ATL: The Capital of College Football

Atlanta is far more than just the capital of Georgia

Atlanta is far more than just the capital of Georgia

By David Hauser

The 2012 SEC Championship should go down as one of the greatest college football games ever.  On College Football’s Conference Championship Weekend, for yet another year, it was the only championship game that mattered.  The SEC reigns supreme for another season and Southerners could not be more proud to let the rest of the country know it.

You see, I am a temporary resident of Atlanta for the year, so I’ve gotten just a sip of the flavor and a whiff of the aroma of the college football culture down here.  And I’ve quickly come to learn that Atlanta is the Capital City of College Football in this country.  While the entire state of Ohio may gasp in horror at this statement and Austin, Texas and Eugene, Oregon may insist otherwise (as some of Nate Silver’s numbers might suggest), there is simply no other city where college football means more and where the population is more overrun with zealotry and pride than Atlanta on autumn Saturdays.

Atlanta is the melting pot of the SEC: an amalgamation of Crimson Tide intensity, Gator devotion, and Gamecock pride, reaching across ethnic and social status divisions as one region passionately engaged and tuned in on fall Saturdays.  I’ve joked with my new co-workers here that it seems like it would be a sin to host a wedding on a Saturday during football season in the South and they responded with a straight-faced nod and a “yeah, sounds about right” (one colleague intentionally planned her wedding on a bye week of fiancé’s adopted team).

The people of the metropolitan area of Atlanta further revealed their passions for college football this year when it was announced that taxpayers would pony up $300 million in tax revenues to contribute to the construction of an entirely new retractable roofed Georgia Dome in order to continue to have a state of the art facility to host the SEC Championship (among other events), despite the fact that the current Georgia Dome is only 20 years old and received another $300 million of renovations just 5 years ago.

SEC fans flock to the Georgia Dome like the Salmon of Capistrano (or a lot of them just live here)

SEC fans flock to the Georgia Dome like the Salmon of Capistrano (or a lot of them just live here)

Adding to this town’s football enthusiasm, is the fact that taxpayers are willing to foot the bill for the construction and improvement of this celestial football monument while in the same year rejecting a one-cent sales tax to drastically improve the transportation grid in one of, if not the worst, trafficked and gridlocked cities in America.  So if you are scoring at home, Atlantians (or ATLiens if you prefer the homegrown Outkast label) are willing to spend 90 to 180 minutes of every single working day sitting in traffic if it means they can remain America’s Capital of College Football.  The ball is in your court Columbus, Ohio and Eugene, Oregon…but I don’t see you making this level of commitment to the cause. Continue reading