Why football?

A reporter transplanted from Chicago to work on the Daily Oklahoman who cares nothing for football was given the assignment to find out why Oklahomans care so much about the sport.

This turned into an interesting article, which I excerpt and link to after the jump, whereupon I then raise questions for my fellow football fans.

From Juliana Keeping, Why football is a big deal in Oklahoma | News OK:

Oklahoma loves football.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is a confession: I don’t.

I don’t hate football either.

I feel indifferent.

This week, Friday night lights are back at hundreds of Oklahoma high schools. I’ve decided I won’t spend another season ignorant of the game’s Oklahoma roots and the deep hold the game has on the people in my adopted home.

Technically, I can’t.

As I write I’m on a deadline in a territory so foreign to me I’d feel more at home at a crime scene.

The assignment at hand?

Why do Oklahomans love football so much?

I arrived in Moore on a perfect late-summer evening carrying a notebook and an iPhone to find out. Norman North, Westmoore, Edmond Santa Fe and Tulsa Union were scrimmaging.

As a co-worker and I fumbled with our equipment in the parking lot of Moore Stadium, I heard a coach scream at players practicing on a nearby field.

“Don’t be soft.”

I stopped to stare — and roll my eyes — at the macho display of encouragement.

Don’t be soft.

Then, I thought harder about the man screaming at the players. We all live in an era of hover parents and rubberized playgrounds, yet here is this coach on a practice field offering something different, a message we probably need to dish out more: Toughen up, kids. Life has winners. Life has losers. Don’t expect a trophy for showing up.

Don’t be soft.

[Keep reading. . .]

I do think a big part of it, as the story goes into, is that high school football is a big focal point for a small town’s sense of community.  You know these kids; you know their families; you went to the same school where you played in your day; if your team is successful, your community feels successful, etc.

I was intrigued by the Grapes of Wrath connection in Oklahoma college football.

I would add that Oklahoma has no NFL team, so all of the zeal that goes with professional football, which has reasons of its own, is projected onto the college teams (which, arguably, makes them more like pro teams than they should be).

Why else?  This article concentrates on football, though I suspect much the same holds true in other rural, small town states.  Are there other dynamics in other kinds of communities?

The article doesn’t say much about personal, individual reasons why someone might be football crazy.  If any of you fit that description, could you explain your particular obsession?

"That's why Eldridge cleaver came home to the USA."

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