November 30, 2023
By Jim Towey
I took a trip to The Swamp to better understand why so many people in America want to drain a different one.
America has two swamps. One is the name of the football field of the University of Florida Gators. Its below-ground-level playing surface and the howls of 90,000 spectators perched above have earned it a fearsome reputation. The other is in our nation’s capital. What crawls about in the muck there? Poisonous politics, partisan gridlock, gaslighters, unaccountable bureaucrats, out-of-touch elitists, predatory lobbyists, special-interest influencers, and self-serving politicians more interested in maintaining power than building national unity, and their media enablers.
I visited the one in Gainesville to watch my alma mater’s football team, Florida State University, play its arch-nemesis. The rivalry between the Seminoles and Gators is one of America’s most intense and bitter. The game was expected to be a toss-up because our quarterback had been sidelined the week before with a fractured leg. Despite this dreadful setback, I was buoyed by the optimism that an undefeated season brings. No sooner had I pulled into town than I was greeted by a fraternity house banner that read, “FSU: Break a Leg!” Nice, huh? Welcome to Gator country!
But that is how football rolls, isn’t it? Consider the great college rivalries today: Michigan v. Ohio State; Alabama v. Georgia; Texas v. Oklahoma; Notre Dame v. Southern Cal; the list goes on and on and crisscrosses America. Ditto for the NFL, with matchups like the Eagles and Cowboys, or the Steelers and virtually every team they play. The atmospherics that govern football are the same in every stadium: fiercely loyal fans for both the visiting and home teams amassed in close proximity, peaceably co-existing for hours on end.
Sure, trash talk flowed in the stadium in measures equal to the beer fueling it, but the banter and taunting was (mostly) in good fun. My sons and daughter who were with me were proudly garbed in garnet and gold, the FSU colors, and were seated alongside their cousin, a Gator fan, outfitted in Florida’s orange and blue. The game went back and forth until FSU finally won. The Seminoles remained undefeated and the Gators finished their season with a heartbreaking loss. Rarely is justice administered so perfectly.
At the game’s conclusion when the fans filed out and The Swamp drained, the players and coaches of the two teams greeted each other in a show of good sportsmanship and solidarity. These combatants only moments earlier were now exchanging pleasantries. They recognized that what they had in common was much more important than the difference of their jerseys. Racial harmony, too, had flourished under the stadium lights, both on the field and in the stands. Such a display of integration underscores the broad decency of most Americans that the legacy media wants us to ignore.
This all left me with a simple question: Why can’t our country learn how to manage its differences the way football fans and players do? The rancor between Republicans and Democrats allows no civility, no respect for diversity of opinion. Political arguments that should be about the quest for truth are instead the means to pursue power. The trash-talking on Fox News and MSNBC has become so personal, petty, mean-spirited, and polarizing. Most politicians now place themselves on the extreme edges of the red and blue state divide. Bipartisanship is mocked as the stuff of weaklings when it is actually a show of strength and respect for others. But without the ability to work through and accommodate reasonable disagreement, the swamp that is Washington grows more toxic. No wonder the American people are so disillusioned with our leaders, and confidence in government is so abysmal.
A settled score, settling scores
And worse, unlike football games where the scoreboard settles the question of who the better team is, election night seems to settle nothing. Instead, results are contested by the sore loser, claims of fraud are made with little or no substantiation, and the sacredness of the right to vote – the lifeblood of democracy – is further sullied.
Why can’t the winners be gracious in victory and the losers accept defeat, just as they do in football? It is far more pleasing to watch fans storm the field in celebration than watch voters storm the Capitol in defeat.