Why I think college football is (sort of) important

I don’t watch college sports much. Or any sports, really. I spent the bulk of high school alternately railing against and scoffing at meathead jock types. Sure, there were a few intelligent, well-rounded sporty types, but we didn’t talk much in class (and NEVER outside of class), so I considered them outliers. Rob Lyons, Renee Pomaville, and Marybeth Knoth were always people I admired. I think it’s pretty awesome that each of them have much “brainier” jobs than I do now. I’d love to meet up with them.

Even though I went to a school in the Big 10, I never attended a football game. I didn’t go to any basketball games either (although that was mainly because I didn’t want to camp outside the Breslin Center to enter the student ticket lottery). The bulk of my animosity toward college sports began to fade, but I definitely wouldn’t call myself a sports fan.

But after college I realized that sports give us a large-scale way to stay connected that, like it or not, we can’t necessarily get from our college academic pursuits.

Look at my Twitter feed after last night’s Michigan State game. The tweets are written by, from top to bottom, a former SNewser who I never even worked with, former SNewser now at the Indy Star, former SNewser now at MLive, former SNewser who left a paper where she was treated like dirt to become a professional superstar, former SNewser who was more of a friend-of-a-friend, and one of my top three favorite MSU professors / physics mastermind. I’m sort of in touch with these people, yes, but there’s an emotional connection I feel with them after big college news like this is announced. EVEN IF I don’t talk with them right after seeing their post. EVEN IF I didn’t even watch the game.

Jane McGonigal would call this fiero, I guess. A more cynical person might call this mob mentality. I think it’s just another reminder that our choices define not only the path we take in life, but also who will be a part of our community.

When I chose to go to Michigan State, I knew I’d be a part of an enormous community, which was thrilling to me. I didn’t want to be a big fish in a little pond. But I also knew I wanted to be near lots of like-minded nerds, so I joined the Honors College and lived on an Honors floor.

My closest MSU friends happened to be in the Honors College too, but I love that on any given day in downtown Seattle I can shout “GO GREEN” and almost always someone knows how to respond. I wouldn’t be able to have that same connection if I said, “YO, Who got that last e-mail from Bess German talking about alumni events???” Cheering for sports has given us this common language, right? Sure, there were plenty of people who, in my view, may have squandered the academic portion of their college days, but for the most part, we know MSU is so much more than a basketball team or a football game.

I guess our school becoming an AVID elementary has got me thinking about college a bit more than usual. We had our first college day last week, and at first I was more than a bit miffed that many students’ college apparel celebrated the sports teams, not the academic programs, associated with the different schools.

Back in first grade, when I was mocked for wearing a MSU sweatshirt rather than a shirt from football powerhouse U of M, I protested, “Of COURSE I’m wearing MSU.” (I imagine you can hear the shrill tone my voice achieved as it reached into the stratosphere) “My Dad is a POLICE OFFICER, why would he go to U of M if MSU has the best POLICE program in the country???”

I’d like to think our kids, especially those who come from families where college isn’t a part of their legacy, understand that the sports spectacle is distinctly different from the learning that happens at college. But the truth remains that when you don’t have time to wax philosophical, the most effective way to express that belonging is with a battle cry or a round of the fight song.

Back to football. If you want to see the big play that everyone’s freaking out about, you can watch it here. But I think you should watch the video that I posted earlier in the season, which shows MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins is an absolute class act.

So I’m not going to start watching any football games (although I might catch a basketball championship game or two). I remain skeptical of the messages families send their students when they put together elaborate tailgate extravaganzas. But I’m definitely proud to be a Spartan.


Do what you love for the rest of your life.

If you’ve been in class with me, chance are you’ve heard us talk at our class meeting about the reason we want to do well in school. College and making money often comes up, but the big hope is that we will be able to do what we love for the rest of our lives.

My charming husband Toby is a great example of that. He went to school for digital arts and experimental media, but now he’s a web developer for Cheezburger Network and has some of the raddest coworkers around.

Despite the fact that his degree is totally different from his job, the programming skills he learned at college helped him develop sweet WordPress skills that allowed him to make this site dazzling and (hopefully) useful.

Just look at those uniformly sized book cover icons!

Anyway, I just wanted to publicly thank Toby and remind you why we’re doing this school business.

Changing our Future TOMORROW!!!

Salutations, ladies and gentlemen! I am deathly ill (agaaaaaaain), but the only thing that’s keeping me going is that we’re going to the University of Washington TOMORROW!!! I’ve been looking forward to this all year, and I’m excited we were able to snag a tour of Suzzallo Library!

I learned about this new version of the Aesop’s Fable “Belling the Cat.” I must find it. You should check out the Web site — it’s fantastic!

And here’s a link to the UW virtual tour we explored in class on Friday. Enjoy!


Big Orange Vehicle Blog!

I said a while ago that I’d share some more about my previous life as a reporter. Here you go!

Back in 2005, I had just finished my journalism degree at Michigan State.

Commencement speakers! (All from the Honors College)
Commencement speakers! Andy and Vinay are now doctors, Ron was the head of the Honors College, and I became a teacher.

I knew I was going to serve with AmeriCorps in the fall, but my summer was dedicated to cops and courts reporting at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida.

And also fishing.
And also fishing.

I learned a ton about reporting (including the fact that I never, ever, ever again want to call a man to tell him his parents were buried alive), interviewed some amazing people, and met some pretty incredible coworkers.

Jeff Brumley is one such coworker. I used to sit across the aisle from him in the newsroom, and he was always in good spirits, with nerdily interesting facts to share. He was also one of the members of the T-U softball team, the Hacks, to welcome me out into right field.

He’s still holding down the fort as religion reporter at the T-U despite the craziness in the newspaper industry, and he’s still excited about the shuttle launches that happen a few hours south in Cape Canaveral at Kennedy Space Center.

With reporter Dawn Klemish at Kennedy Space Center
With reporter Dawn Klemish at Kennedy Space Center

Jeff also runs a neat blog called the Big Orange Vehicle Blog, which celebrates orange modes of transportation. Orange is the color of his college, the University of Tennessee. (See, ladies and gentlemen, you notice that I talk about going to college even during the summer. Remember that I love you and want you to go to college so you can have a job you love. Going to college gives you a community that you are a part of for the rest of your life!)

Jeff in college and Jeff now.

I found two orange vehicles in Seattle on my way home from a hike yesterday, and Jeff featured them this week! He also said some awfully nice things about me.

The moral of this story is the same as many I tell you during the school year: work hard, be nice, go to college, do awesome stuff, get recognized for your hard work. I love you and miss you!

(Jeff, I hope it was OK that I snagged those pictures…)