Super Bowl v. SOTU

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President Barack Obama accepting Green Bay Packers Jersey

Reprinted from Twin Cities Daily

January’s Super Bowl and State of the Union Speech always offer plenty to watch.  And for citizens and jocks alike: the chance to see stars and lesser souls connecting together.  With the potential to win big, Or, not.

Each features Americans boasting for their favorite teams’ side-often obsessively, often passionately.  Some (literally and figuratively) wear their “team colors” to work, faith services and grocery store lines.

Buildup for each is as catalytic as the televised event is.  The chatter they produce finds millions of different people tuning in to see the spectacle.

Always interesting is the relative weight national culture assigns each.  For many, this increasingly amounts to a troubling disconnect about which we value more: Football or Country.

There are traditional questions to be asked.  Like: by- and to whom is each event promoted?  Both involve big names and big money-which we all pay for, big time.  Indeed, we get receipts for our paid taxes, logo gear and tickets.   Upon closer inspection many ask: what’s behind what we are paying for?

It pays to do a tally:

1. The starting players.

Starting for Football: Amped-up commentators like retired QB Troy Aikman handicapping professional players and coaches’ relative strengths and weaknesses.

And for Government: Linguistically gifted political insiders pontificating (even as they plant rhetorical seeds) to handicap Presidential and congressional strategies.

2.  The playing fields.

Super Bowl XLV: The bright green and white-lined turf where high-tech meets highly compensated players competing to beat each other in a game with easily understood rules.

2011 SOTU Speech: The media-muddled shifting sands of U.S. society where elected representatives are responsible for succeeding together to unify the people and states of America, wherever they are.

3. The pre-game headline grabbers.

Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys and their Dallas stadium.  Not a crowd favorite.  Grassroots fan groups rallied efforts to oust Jones due to his perpetual and unproductive bully tactics.  And habit of publically disparaging peers, including beloved Coach Tom Landrey and colleagues, like laborers and referees.

President Barak Obama, in Dallas at the big game. And main event star of the State of the Union speech.

4.  The behind-the-scenes game.

Back in D.C., Obama and Congress must do much more than wave the colors of our Country for the cameras.  Even if they are Pack-leaders or scene-Steelers-all, now more than ever, need to model serious sportsperson-like behaviors.

Critical evidence could begin to be proven if they can compellingly co-produce a big-picture plan.  (But it must be far bigger then an annual flashy event).   That could convincingly compete and beat high-stakes football to get citizens engaged in the long-view game.

Signs of success will only be clear when real people, regardless where they are watching from, are invited in as critical players.  In other words, a win would require all to play-and hard-whatever their position.

If politicians can demonstrate how (ala good guys like Coach Landrey), they could inspire millions of Americans to become Team-USA players, too.

So, here’s the strategy, leaders: To win you must rally peers, pundits, competitors and citizens to a win for the biggest cause of all: the reuniting of our States.

Or, for those who prefer jock-talk predications: Losers will be those who break rules of personal dignity and national ethics.  They should anticipate being bounced off the star team when former fan-groups see the hidden games they are playing.

Which leads to this call-out to citizens: Don’t wait to be recruited! Get in the game before we all lose again.

All should remember: Democracy, by both implication and Constitutional law, was never meant to be a once-in-a-while spectator event created for us by big-time players and consumed by us from our couches, with beer (or whatever)-while cheering, jeering or taking a snooze.

President Obama’s State-of-the-Union was only the Kick-Off.  It’s time we all start hustling.

Andrea Grazzini Walstrom is founder of DynamicShift, started Fall 2009 as Nonpartisan Productive Dialogue. DynamicShift, a grassroots initiative, employs positive agitation and organizing methods to illuminate and address unproductive incivility perpetrated by public leaders.

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