So, there I was on January 3rd, trying to come up with a new post while watching my alma mater, Ohio University, in The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (it is actually called that – I did not take editorial privilege and add in “famous,” frankly if I had I would’ve chosen “fabulous” or something more inherently superlative.) I always get a little weepy when I watch Ohio University on TV because like most people, I have great affection for the place where I had, what I like to call, the best four years of my life.
Ohio University is in Athens which is in Southeast Ohio. When you are there, you can’t help but notice the contrast between the student life and real life in the town. This was all brought to light lately by a speech given by Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow of LSU.
The town is poor – really poor. When I was there, Athens County had the highest illiteracy rate in the state and the poverty rate is two times the national average. Besides the University, there are virtually no economic engines there. Joe Burrow was raised in Athens and his dad was a longtime coach at the University.
After the game was over, I logged into YouTube and watched Joe’s speech and read an article about the events that unfolded after this speech. A fellow OU grad and native of Athens, Will Drabold, set up a Facebook page to raise money for the Athens food bank on Dec.15th with a goal of raising $1,000. In 24 hours, it had raised $80,000, which is more than the total annual budget of the organization. By December 17th it had raised $350,000. Today, it’s over half a million bucks and it is still going. The food bank had no idea this was going to happen.
Here is the link to the entire article, I strongly encourage you to read it.
So, what is the point of my article? Well, it got me thinking about sports, especially college sports, and why we all love them so much.
Of course, they are entertaining and fun to watch. For many of us they help take us back to either our childhood of where we were raised or to our college days, which we all know are pretty dang fun. I lived a large part of my childhood in Columbus so I will always have a place in my heart for the Scarlet and Grey and my husband will always bleed Tennessee orange, even though neither of us attend the schools. It is a statewide thing.
In the end, the loyalty we feel becomes bigger than tailgating and face painting. You hear the stories of the young kids, like Joe Burrow, and you realize that while they have achieved what would be considered ultimate greatness on the field, they can be giving enough to make a moment about something greater than themselves.
Little kids (like my son) now have a hero in a 23-year-old young man from Athens, Ohio who took his moment in the spotlight and made a difference. He made us all realize we can make a difference, even if we don’t have the platform of the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan or college sports for that matter.
In this day and age, it is easy to focus on all the bad. There is so much fighting, hatred, and divisiveness in our nation’s dialogue and this just made me realize how much goodness there still is to be found out there, and how in the end, most of us want the same things even if we have different ways of doing it.
If you’d like to donate to the Athens County Food Pantry you can do so right here: Athens Food Pantry.
I’d also like to put in a plug for a college football-related charity project my own family started with America’s football coaches to help find a cure to a lethal genetic disorder. It’s called Coach to Cure MD and you can learn more here: CoachToCureMD.org.
So, as we watch the national title game tonight, I can say “go Tigers” (see how diplomatic I am, it could be either of them) and we can all say thank you to an above-average Joe from Southeast Ohio.
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