Two and a half years ago Nick Saban spoke at the AFCA Convention and told a story of meeting with Jesse Jackson during his time as head coach at LSU. Football, Jackson said, brought people together. White and black, Christian and non-Christian, Republican and Democrat, all of them came together Saturday night to pull for the Tigers. And when all of those groups gathered together, Saban recalled the civil rights activist saying, God joined them in the stands of Tiger Stadium.
In his appearance on Mike & Mike Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney touched on the same nerve.
He dips a toe into football's persecution-complex waters but, other than that, Swinney's defense of football, in this season of stump speeches, could serve as a brilliant stump for the long-term future of the sport as an argument for its essential nature to American culture.
“I think the game’s never been better. I think there’s an agenda. I think when North Korea gets a nuclear bomb, it’s going to be football’s fault. I think we’re in a culture that everything is football. It’s because football has the stage. But football – I don’t care what people’s agenda is – yes, we have got to always get better, we’ve got to always learn, we’ve got to always create ways to protect our players.
“But at the end of the day, I got all kind of education. I got a business degree. I got an MBA, but the greatest education I got was between the lines.
“Football is a great example to this country. Football unifies. Football brings people together. I go to Death Valley and there’s 85,000 people in those stands and they’re packed. And you know what? Monday through Friday, a lot of those people wouldn’t talk to each other because they’re different religions, they’re different colors, they live in different neighborhoods, they drive different cars, they have different bank accounts. But on Saturdays when the Tigers score, they’re hugging each other’s necks. They’re high-fivin’.
“I have brothers for life that I met in between the lines that when you put them helmets on, it doesn’t matter what color you are, it doesn’t matter what religion you are. It’s a singleness of purpose and nothing brings people together like the game of football.
“You want to fix Congress? Let’s go create some football teams, let’s have some inside drills, some 1-on-1s. You’ll bring people together real quick. I’ve always said that. This game is special. It’s unique. It’s dynamic. It’s culturally diverse. You’ve got the kid from over here and the kid from up here and they become brothers through the game of football. And it would have never happened without that experience.
“Football has gotten under attack. But there is far more good from this game. I’ve seen people’s lives changed. I’m passionate about it because you’re looking at a guy whose life has changed by the game of football.
“I could go on and on and on about the power of this game. You can throw all of the stats you want out there, but football ain’t going away. It ain’t going away."
(HT The State)