Bob Ehrlich: Basic Facts About Football Might Be Why Fans Are Sounding Off Against Biden


I’ve been thinking about why college football fans have been chanting not-so-subtle, downright ugly and profanely contemptuous messages about President Biden.

The item is certainly inconvenient for the legacy media, so the story has been generally limited to the right-leaning press.

But the question remains: Why all the vitriol directed at a guy who’s been in office for only 10 months?

After all, were not our elite institutions of higher learning the epicenter of opposition to all things President Trump during the election of 2020?

It is too easy to conclude that fans are simply expressing their pent-up frustration about the “lost” 2020 lockdown season.

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In fact, the larger D-1 schools in the Power Five conferences did play a (truncated) season — and even declared a national champion (Alabama, again). Such is far more than you can say for many of the smaller schools in Divisions II and III.

It is possible that some fans wish to express their anger at the scaremongering reports from the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci and CNN of college football crowds constituting “superspreader” events?

That one-day story had little impact. Indeed, few fans took the warnings seriously since the virus (for some reason) was not seen to be an issue at other large college and professional sporting events — and, come to think of it, large-scale anti-Trump rallies.

Another slightly more plausible reason for the outbursts may be the overwhelming desire of young people to simply get back to a normal college existence — and there is nothing more normal than going to the stadium every Saturday afternoon and letting loose with your classmates.

Does college football represent conservative values?

Further reflection leads me to conclude that some fans want to express their distaste for an intellectual elite that hates football because it is the prototypical American game, replete with aggressive terms (“targeting,” “marching,” “territory,” “roughing the quarterback,” and of course, “the final gun”) and all the while preaching an ethic (“winning counts,” “pull yourself up by the bootstraps”) wholly at odds with the “let’s not keep score” and “everybody gets a trophy” value system of the progressive ilk.

But there is another, deeper reason for all the antagonism: America’s football ethic is the polar opposite of the type of identity politics generally dominant in public colleges and universities and popularized by today’s left-leaning culture. Think about it.

Football, whether pro, college, high school or sandlot, encourages rabid tribalism: You root for your neighborhood, your community, your school, your city.

But this brand of benign tribalism does not divide by race or ethnicity or income. In fact, it brings people of diverse races and backgrounds together in a common cause: Fans attend games in order to support their tribe, their colors, their history, their school — against yours.

To boot (excuse the pun), football is also the ultimate in sports meritocracy. Here, all 22 players pull in the same direction, in support of the same goal, no matter what you look like or how much money your parents have or where you came from or whether you’re vaxxed or whether you are a Republican or Democrat.

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This is a different (and difficult) lesson for those who wake up every day intent on dividing us, those who seek to use our immutable characteristics to turn us against one another — for sport.

One final impossible-to-dismiss suspicion about why the campaign against football has failed to gain traction in flyover America: There is no other sport through which large numbers of working-class and poor parents have gained access to a college education for their sons.

In this respect, the prototypical blue-collar sport has proven to be a primary route whereby so many blue-collar kids have been able to punch their ticket into the American middle class. And that’s something for all Americans to cheer about.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.