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What Does A Good Protest March Need? Lessons from OSU

Dark Red Rounded Rectangle 2 miles driven so far this week
Ohio State University fans after the gameLast 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.

Ohio State football fans on High Street in Fall 2006The 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.

OSU fans in Columbus wearing redAll 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.

Ohio State University fans dressed in red in 2006What 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?

4 thoughts on “What Does A Good Protest March Need? Lessons from OSU”

  1. J. Clifford says:

    Clearly, we need jerseys. Bright blue ones, maybe?

  2. Alan says:

    What would it take to get this kind of apathy going in Baghdad? I hear they like to torture and kill their sports figures too.

  3. Vynce says:

    beer, hot dogs, corporate sponsorships, official colors, stars whose numebrs we can wear — these are all good ideas. but really, what it takes is decades of buildup and constant coverage. 5 minutes a night on TV news at every level — local, national, international — about all the biggest new laws and what they mean, who’s winning various contests (“support for HR 2378 is still down by 17 votes with only 42 undecided, and the democrats are 2 for 13 on late turnarounds this year.” “especially when deefending our basic rights, John.” “that’s right, steve, 0 for 3 in those battles.”)

    and why would the media provide such constant updates? only for a rabid and vocal consumer market.

    but is this really the attitude we want to foster? consider that there are fatehrs out there who won’t let their sons go to university of California at Berkeley — despite the awesomeness of that education — merely because Dad went to Stanford. there’s already enough bashing of political ideas because they came from the wrong side of the aisle, in my opinion. I’ve seen knee-jerk reactions to good ideas just because hte sponsor also happened to disagree witht he listener on some other point. In a 20-party conference, rivalries can be OK. people can still get excited abotu the things they care about, and still paya ttention and have preferences on the lesserly interesting contests, and be fair when they watch the replay of two teams they don’t really care much about. (“well, yeah, the EarthFirsters did step outside the bounds on that campaign contribution.”) but when there are only two teams, adn they hate each other, there are no fair refs and no unbiased coverage.

    anyway, weird stretched analogies aside, i think the political atmosphere is a little overly polarized already, and in weird, unuseful directions. make twenty parties, each with their own primary pet causes, so that i can vote for someone whose top priority is my basic freedom to be a person, and i can also tune in to watch my second favorite team, the LittleGuys, and i’ll be happy to support rivalries and wear jerseys. But when my only choices are Doofusses and Goons, i’d rather watch soccer.

    (and befor eyou lecture me on my civic duty, note that i do read and post on this forum and others, trying to make multiple parties a reality.)

  4. Dave says:

    CLICHE ALERT!!!!!!!!

    Ignorance is bliss.

    IMO, people that are only interested in the TV and sports are the most ignorant of all. Until there’s a change in the regulations of what TV must show, the dumber we’all will be.

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