For many of us in Aggieland, fall really starts tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 8) with the start of A&M football. Tomorrow’s game is historic in many ways – most them having been commented on over the past 14 months since A&M decided to move to the SEC. But it continues to fascinate me that football, in so many ways, is an integral part of our lives. (Remember, I wrote the blog about why we get so upset when our team loses – I seem to be fixated on this topic, eh?) Football is used as a placemark for the seasons; football is used as a reason to gather and celebrate; football gives us a common cause in a world that is increasingly split into ever-smaller factions. Perhaps that is why so many of us rally around football, eagerly reading or listening to anything remotely related to our favorite sport.
Even with my job being so tied to sports, I’ve never had a taste for reading fictionalized sports stories. Fiction? Yes. Science fiction? Even better. But ‘sports fiction’ never could hold a candle to the real thing. But over the past four years, I’ve really gotten hooked on a series that incorporates football, race relations, and….aliens and spaceships. I know, you’re thinking: “What? Football and aliens? And why in the heck are you talking about that? This column started off so well talking about the role football plays in our lives…”
But that’s where this blog is different. I think a fictionalized football series set in a far future and our daily lives are related. Scott Sigler has written his Galactic Football League series set about 600 years from now. In Mr. Sigler’s Universe, football – yes, the same version of the game that we know today – is actually used as a device of peace by the Galactic authorities because all of the values of football that I talked about in the first paragraph. Our future selves use football to ease alien-human relations (talk about the ultimate in race relations) as well as to encourage cooperation and discourage annihilation. By setting his stories in the far future – and by even incorporating alien races – Mr. Sigler is able to talk about issues that confront us today that football helps solve such as racism, working with your neighbors/teammates for a common cause in spite of your differences, and using sport to bridge gaps between hostile societies. Sounds like the Olympics, doesn’t it? We just forget that football actually does all of those things as well.
So, as Fall begins tomorrow, remember that football isn’t just a game, it really is about a way of life. Not just parts of life – after all Bern Williams once said that “Football incorporates the two worst elements of American society: violence punctuated by committee meetings” – but rather the parts of us that value our shared goals over our differences.
Postscript: And if you’re interested in checking out Scott Sigler’s GFL series, just know that they are great football books as well (the fourth in the series just came out and it is hard to put down). It is obvious that Mr. Sigler has extensive experience with football (I’ll leave it to you to find out what experience that was) and so all of you football junkies will not be disappointed with the football parts of the book (and yes, there are lots of those!). The first book was “The Rookie” and is available as a soft-cover, e-book or as podcasts (it is hard to find the hardback copies). While I like to read, I’ll always recommend the podcast version because they are mostly free and Sigler does a truly amazing job voicing all the characters in the story. You’ll never think of football the same way again….I promise.
About the Author
Dr. J. Timothy Lightfoot, PhD FACSM RCEP CES, Omar Smith Endowed Chair in Kinesiology, Dept. of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University.