What Does A Good Protest March Need? Lessons from OSU
2 miles driven so far this week
Last Saturday, over 100,000 people amassed, as they do on half the Saturdays in the fall, to dress in red and watch a few dozen people play a football game at Ohio State University. Thousands more gathered in public places around Columbus to collectively celebrate the event, and thousands walked the streets afterward as you see here — giving each other high fives for “their” win, getting drunk, cheering, and mildly razzing anyone walking by who wasn’t wearing the team colors of scarlet or gray.
The crowds at OSU are so large, and members of the crowd are so fired up about what they’re doing, that Columbus police come out in extra numbers after every game just to prevent riots caused by overheated emotions.
All this emotional and physical commitment by so many people is inspired by the act of watching other people play a game, a game that very few of the fans themselves play. It’s a game that has few consequences outside the emotional rewards generated by the fans themselves (and the associated donations to Ohio State University). Yet protests regarding changes in highly consequential government policy grab handfuls in this town. Even marches dedicated to the defense of the constitution, in so ostensibly patriotic a city, attract few.
What is it about football games that draws so many people? What is it about political protests that garners so few? It’s a mystery to me. To think of it in a slightly different way, what features would a protest event have to have in order to gain similar numbers?
Should there be cornhole games before marches? Tailgates? Keggers?
Should speeches be scored by refs? Should there be fouls for undissentfullike conduct? Halftime shows?
Maybe announcers should announce occasional raffle winners and the whole thing could be remarked upon for CBS from the viewing stand by Brent Musberger. John Madden could provide play-by-play coverage, with little yellow squiggles and circles showing the path of demonstraters in particularly animated moments.
I know I’m being a little flip, but beneath that I’m serious: what would it take for Americans to take the act of public dissent as seriously as they take football games?