It started when the University of North Carolina took on Virginia Tech at the start of college football season and a stadium full of fans jumped and cheered to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as the teams took the field. It continued into the second weekend, when fans at both Brigham Young University and University of Arkansas stormed their fields.
You know something is afoot when BYU is storming the field, even if fans did refrain from tearing down their own goalposts like Arkansas did. While in both cases the opponents are bitter rivals, it suggests something else is going on.
People are anxious to get back out and socialize. They’re tired of the restrictions. They’re over masking and social distancing. Not everyone is there yet, but college football fans are. They’re packing stadiums with barely six inches of distance between one another. When you watch the games on TV, you have to look to find people in masks. Not only that, but we’ve seen fans’ repeated chanting of “F— you, Biden” since the start of the season.
These games may not offer the levels of debauchery and partying as Obama’s maskless birthday soiree on Martha’s Vineyard, though they also don’t seem to be superspreader events. They are a chance to show everyone that the time for fear is long over, that it’s time to storm the field and retake our national glory.
The Fun of Crowds, Rivalries, and Camaraderie
Rivalry is one of the things that makes college football great. You get to loathe people for no reason. It’s not rational at all, like the current wider world, and it’s fun, as the wider world should be.
And that rivalry is done in good spirits. For example, being a native Arkansan, though one with no hatred of the great state of Texas, I still loathe the Texas Longhorns. They are our rivals from conferences past, and a team that has often bested us. We Arkansans used to joke that we left the Southwestern Conference to get away from Texas. Maybe not any longer. Welcome to the Southeastern Conference, fellas! Seriously. This is going to be enjoyable.
It’s not just about rivalry, getting caught up in the moment, and destroying property, though. If it were, Antifa might serve a purpose. It’s about the crowds, the energy, the camaraderie between thousands of strangers, both friend and frenemy. It’s about seeing people’s cheering faces, their smiles, their winces. It’s about remembering that being in this together requires actually being together from time to time. Plus, smashing your television after a win just doesn’t feel the same, and not just because you’re the one who has to pay for it.
It’s Time for All of Us to Rush the Field
We’ve turned the corner on the pandemic. Sure, it’s endemic now, but we’ve learned a great deal about how to prevent and treat serious cases. We’ve got a much clearer picture about who is at risk for severe outcomes. Those are good things, particularly as no one in the world has truly figured out how to stop the spread, and we’re not talking the +6.5 points Arkansas blew past in its manhandling of Texas.
In “Jurassic Park,” Dr. Ian Malcolm said that life always finds a way. In 2021, that biological reality is not as applicable to everyday life as it is to dinosaurs figuring out a way to procreate. Now, we have to make life find a way, starting by letting go of the fear and suspicion of our fellow man. Game days are a perfect way to do so.
Watch the throngs of regular citizens whooping and hollering, pouring onto the fields, giving strangers hugs and high fives. Learn from their example. Remember what George Costanza often forgot, albeit it in an entirely different context that I won’t mention, that we’re trying to have a civilization here.
And civilization isn’t built upon Zoom. It’s not a virtual space, created and controlled like SimCity or Roblox or any other of those games I know nothing about. Civilization is meant to be lived.
It’s time for us as Americans to remember this, to stop living in fear and suspicion of our fellow citizens. It’s time to join shoulder to shoulder and scream at the looming triumph of sanity. It’s time to remember that there is no spike more powerful than the spiking the ball. We can do this, America. Let’s go.