There are few things more tribal in America than politics or college football. People dress themselves ritualistically, paint their faces, wave banners signifying their allegiance to one tribe or another, spend thousands of dollars despite being in a recession, and spend hundreds of hours watching and tailgating at what is ostensibly just a game. We forget that football causes more catastrophic injuries to its players than any other collegiate sport. The spectators of today’s sporting events seem to spend more time and energy on their teams than they do building in their community.
Originally a community bonding event, competitive sports has become a marketing and merchandizing extravaganza. Here in Oregon that means everything from headbands, jewelry, and clothing to specialty versions of popular cars complete with OSU or U of O decals. No longer is the sport about the game or community, it’s about making money off the consumer. Sure, the ticket sales and bracelet purchases are funding, at least indirectly, the education of the players, but as with the recording industry, the bulk of profits aren’t going to the “content creators.”
This weekend, players from two colleges will don uniforms and clash over a piece of leather in a game. Fans will cheer, winners will shout, and losers will curse. But people won’t die and families won’t be split apart, because ultimately it’s just a game.
While I understand merchandising, I simply cannot understand the lack of outrage from equating a game between two colleges as equivalent to the Civil War, or any civil war for that matter. In 1861 the United States went to war with itself. Brother fought brother, families were literally torn apart, and some 618,000 men died. To equate a football game with this event is to fail to understand its significance, and it is surely a sign that we are doomed as a country to repeat the mistakes of our past.
As I biked around Corvallis before the “Civil War,” I saw people laughing and generally having a good time. What I didn’t see were mortars landing in the streets, men shooting indiscriminately, or snipers firing from the rooftops. You know where these things are happening, Syria, where an actual civil war is happening. While we enjoy the frivolities of a sheltered Western life, real people are fighting and dying in a civil war that may spill into neighboring countries. War is not trivial. Football is.
The “us versus them” mentality that our country so often leans on to drive innovation has a dark side: it makes people forget that regardless of what team we are on or what team we support, we are all human. Making light of actual civil wars by equating them to a game between “rival” colleges increases the risk of repeating our violent past and is the very definition of a Culture Fail.
By William Tatum
Civil War: Unity and Strength
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the rivalry between Oregon Sate University and the University of Oregon. The Civil War, as it’s affectionately called, represents not only the athletic events that occur between the two universities, but all the associated competitions, both philanthropic and academic. Yes, for most the pinnacle of the Civil War is a football game, but let’s not forget all of the other good things the healthy rivalry brings to the state of Oregon.
For the past 11 years, the American Red Cross, in conjunction with both Oregon universities, hosts the Civil War Blood Drive, which, through friendly rivalry, encourages students, alumni, and fans of the two universities to donate blood during the first two weeks of November. During the holidays, and especially this year with all of the injuries and destruction from Hurricane Sandy, there is a huge need for blood. By tapping into the competitive nature of humans, the drive is a tremendous success. The entire region benefits from the Civil War Rivalry.
Along with blood drives, the rivalry gains national interest for both universities. This is hugely important from an academic and athletic standpoint. Believe it or not, many people in the country cannot place the state of Oregon on a map. The state has a population about half the size of the San Francisco Bay Area, so any publicity the two schools and state can garner from national media sources is incredibly valuable. Both OSU and U of O can reach potential students who would have never thought about going to college in Oregon. The athletic departments also have the ability to create more interest among potential recruits, which only increases the desirability of the two universities. While the Civil War rivalry is great for the schools, Corvallis, Eugene, and the state itself also gain national attention, and the athletic competitions give a boost to the tourism industry as people descend upon the Willamette Valley to partake in the rivalry.
One of the fun things about Oregon is that these two public universities are large, and the state’s general population has a high contingency of OSU and U of O graduates and fans. OSU graduates happily send their kids the University of Oregon, and vice versa. Many receive an undergraduate degree from one institution and an advanced degree from the other. There is a bond, made stronger by the friendly rivalry that exists between the universities, and so when a duck and a beaver meet on the streets of Los Angeles or New York, an instant familiarity exists. While the Civil War, with its original connotation, instills images of a divided nation where Americans fought Americans, it is important to remember that the product of the Civil War was a unity. The rivalry between OSU and U of O accomplishes the same thing.