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What Can College Football Teach Us About Partisan Politics?

Florida State Seminoles

With college football season in full swing, one Florida State University professor is analyzing what the sport means in the capital city.

For creative writing professor and political commentator Diane Roberts, Tallahassee is a college football town. A Floridian born and raised, Roberts says it took years to understand the sport through the eyes of an outsider.

“I understood being a Seminole to be one of my central identities, probably before I understood I was a girl, or I was white, or that I was Presbyterian,” she said.

And her devotion goes beyond fandom – she says she isn’t a Seminole fan, she is a Seminole. And with that identity comes a deep-seated dislike of the Florida Gators.

“There’s always a them. There’s a them and an us. There is no more pure, if slightly demented expression of them and us than college football,” she said.

Roberts says understanding the divisions between Seminoles and Gators could shine a light on the divisions between Democrats and Republicans. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, American society is more divided than ever. Liberals and conservatives are moving farther apart politically, but also literally, choosing to live in different neighborhoods or different parts of the country based on their beliefs.

“And I thought that was really the oddest thing to make a big deal over because I had always understood the world that way. College football had beaten the Pew Charitable Trust to this conclusion more than a hundred years before,” she said.

Still Roberts says college football and partisan politics are not without their faults, and both institutions need reforms.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.