Happy 231st birthday, everyone.
That means every American, not just the ones you agree with. It doesn’t matter if your great-great-great-great-grandparents were in what was called America 231 years ago, or whether it was just the group of English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard that declared independence from the English crown on that day. Some Americans have ancestors who were here in 1776 — some willingly, some not. Some were here for centuries before that, having walked across a land bridge in Alaska. Some didn’t come until years, or centuries, later. Today, for one day in the year, isn’t about sorting all that out. It’s about recognizing that we are all Americans if we were born here, or came here later and became a part of this society. It’s one day to get along, hopefully, while recognizing you have a right to your opinion and your neighbor has a right to his.
So, to “stick to sports,” which I hear often enough these days …
This is a small column, in a smallish newspaper. It’s always about sports, one way or another. There may not be columns like this for long, as the print medium gives way to 90-second videos or televised “opinions” — there may not be television for too many more years, either. But there is still something important about it.
Plenty of people ask if the best part of being a sports columnist is getting to go to games. That’s part of it — a big part — but there’s also tremendous pleasure in working every day with colleagues that respect the language, that can express themselves in words. That includes the great staff here at The Tuscaloosa News, the other talented writers on the Alabama beat, the ones who constitute the college sports community and on up to those who cover all sports.
I’ve found that loving what you do is important — but respecting and appreciating the people that you share the experience with goes a long way as well.
Does that mean that only writers “know about” sports? Of course not. That’s another great things — fans care about sports, too, passionately so. Their insight matters, just as it does in politics or music or anything about which you can have an opinion. Sometimes, those opinions are wrong-headed, a misinterpretation based on bias or miscalculation. Sometimes, they are downright bizarre. That isn’t the end of the world in sports, though. It’s part of the fun — maybe all of the fun. Sporting events can be great performances, displays of athletic prowess by mighty men and graceful women (or, depending on your sport of choice, mighty women and graceful men). But the atmosphere adds to it. When a stadium is back to roaring capacity with fans, half of whom believe Alabama will win and half of whom believe, just as fervently that Clemson, for instance, will win. The same thing can be true of the Warriors against the Cavaliers or, if you love the participants enough, Pickens County against Gordo.
The greatest thing of all, though, happens sometimes in sports. Those opinions are proven right or wrong by a scoreboard. Loyalty is rewarded on one side, hearts are broken on the other. But people on both sides usually make it through with a level of respect. No one wants to commit battery on the fans of the losing side, or banish them. Both sides want to improve — the winners so they can feel that good again in a year, the losers so they don’t have to feel so bad. That’s positive for everyone.
So Happy Birthday, America, no matter which lever you pulled on Election Day — or which flag you fly on Game Day.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.