What is America's War Game?
Why is it football?
It’d been 41 years since Georgia had won a National Championship when they took the field last January in Dallas, Texas. In many ways, Atlanta is the heart of the American South which in turn is arguably the heart of college football. Yet despite being the closest college football program to Atlanta with nationally competitive resources, the Bulldogs had not put it all together for a National Championship since 1980.
Down 18-13 to Alabama and facing 2nd and 18 in the fourth quarter, the Georgia Bulldogs hopes of ending the drought rested in the most unlikely of people. Across from Alabama’s exceptionally athletic outside linebacker tandem of Will Anderson and Dallas Turner was a 5-foot-11, 190 pound former walk-on from rural southeast Georgia named Stetson Bennett. He was the Georgia quarterback and he’d just been rag-dolled to the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium by Turner on 1st and 10.
The sack hadn’t crushed Bennett’s body but it did seem likely to crush Georgia’s hopes. With the next snap of the ball, everything changed. The dreaded Alabama Crimson Tide defense brought a blitz with both Turner and Anderson dropping into coverage, a feint designed to get inside linebacker Christian Harris running free at Bennett.
It worked! But then little Stetson sidestepped to give his running back an angle on the charging linebacker and himself time to set his feet and he uncorked a deep throw down the sideline…
They’d hold on for the win and end the drought, resulting in exultant reactions across the state. Small town local hero Stetson Bennett had risked his skin against Alabama’s nationally elite athletes and will be a legend for years to come in his home state of Georgia as a result.
What is this game of American football? How does it have such a grip on this country?
The sport is beloved and has arguably become essential to American culture. Every fall the game dominates small-town Friday nights, occupies full Saturdays in college towns, and owns Sundays for the bigger cities with pro teams and stadiums built like ancient temples. The major cold-weather holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s all feature major football events and are routinely involved in family holiday traditions.
It’s an incredibly inclusive game. Athletes of different shapes and sizes can find positions and roles on the field, from mammoth 300+ pounders to smaller speedsters and plenty of people in between. There’s no other sport like it which can reflect the full diversity of a community.
There have been recent periods when the future of the sport seemed murky, only for the game to surge past the doubts and challenges.