In a bit of a tribute to George Carlin, my Granddad, and Gannett--who gave me practical training in language and journalism (though I don't always live up to my training); I present Worn-Out Language...
Tiger Nation, Gator Nation, Vol Nation, Trojan Nation (USC, not the prophylactic), Bruin Nation, Buckeye Nation, Sooner Nation, Longhorn Nation and many other nations collectively grunted for NCAA College Football Letter of Intent (LOI) signing day--where college football junkies celebrated the lure of their respective institutions to the top football athletes and their commitments. I kept up with my favorite college football teams: Washington, Kansas, Tennessee and South Dakota State. But the "Nation" language makes me cringe. After LOI day, only one more week until public sports discourse turns to baseball's Yankee Nation, Red Sox Nation, Dodger Nation, etc.
Do not get me wrong, I enjoy the liturgical grunting of the most passionate college football fans. I make as many pilgrimages as possible to watch a college football game. Local games or traveling hundreds of miles away--I love the atmosphere, the passion, the strategy, the bravado, the athletic prowess, the celebrations, excitement and noise. I tend to put away the poor academic performance, the cheating, the lack of integrity, the poor leadership of the NCAA, the misplaced priorites, etc. I lived the life of a collegiate athlete--I have seen many angles. Though the aforementioned troubles in collegiate athletics are bigger problems than language, language matters. I make my living off of language--it's interpretation, proclamation and meaning.
Calling a team and its followers a nation makes me cringe because it's a big nail in the coffin that what sports fans watch is no longer a game, but Empire, and the desire to be Empire. I still appreciate the charade of the student/athlete (indeed, there are great student athletes, but on the whole? I'm not so sure), and the idea that competition is at its heart friendly and that all parties participate in a GAME. Sure, institutions and programs have sold their collective souls for fleeting glories. I still believe in hard work, the satisfaction of accomplishment, friendly competition, team work, and athletics teaching life lessons. I am also glad that many people support athletics. I will continue to keep track of my favorite teams and institutions, their hard work and accomplishments and passionately wish them well.
I am not a part of:
I will still cringe every time I hear a team identified with "nation."