Editor’s Note: Local football and global politics


Photo: Jack Looney Photo: Jack Looney

I’m not worried about the government shutdown or the debt ceiling crisis. Neither, apparently, is Wall Street. I feel totally disconnected from the theater of the absurd on Capitol Hill. It’s funny to think that the first home I lived in was blocks away from the Capitol and that my father worked in Congress. Two years ago the country was in a similar situation and the financial community was edgier, but if you watch a pathetic samurai threaten to disembowel himself over and over again, sooner or later you just kind of want to see if he’ll do it.

In this week’s cover story, a photo essay of a Monticello-Charlottesville high school football game, one of the referees remarked that high school football gets bigger as the town gets smaller. That was certainly true where I lived in Western North Carolina—the Tuscola Mountaineers and the Pisgah Black Bears emptied the towns of Waynesville and Canton when they played. Generations of kids grew up dreaming about suiting up on Friday nights for the honor of their mill town mothers and fathers. There was no other game in town.

I’m not really a football fan. I mean, I am, but I support Arsenal, something I picked up from my mother’s two decades working for the Times of London. Not that she was a Gooner or anything, but some of her North London friends were, and, more than that, her colleagues made me want to be a citizen of the world. Growing up in D.C., you never really feel like you’re from anywhere. You have the origin stories of your father and mother’s families (Alabama and Baltimore for me), but you’re making up the rest of your place-based identity as you go along.

Which gets me to what I am worried about: How do you belong to a specific place and to the global community? Think globally and act locally right? Visualize whirled peas too, right? The thing is I want a fight song, and colors to wear, and I want my Congressman to show up at the football game and ask for my vote and I want to boo him, maybe even throw popcorn at him. But his money comes from D.C., which is where he works, and where I escaped from.