73,000 of My Closest Friends

PanthersStadiumIn December, as a ritual family celebration, I accompanied various of our children and significant others to Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium to watch the Panthers play the Saints in what turned out to be (for pro football this year) an important game. So much so that the place was packed with over 73,000 people . . . in what became a torrential rain.

This was not a pilgrimage of desire for football on my part. Quite the contrary. It was a Holiday family bonding opportunity as many of our troupe do love the game and their Panthers. Clearly, they were not alone in that. And once again, I’m finding myself virtually incapable of doing anything without considering implications for the arts and community engagement.

A small city (well, maybe large town is more like it) worth of people paid a lot of money to attend an event that could have been far more comfortably watched in the comfort of one’s living room (or man cave, presumably). The deluge that broke out in the second half was nearly the heaviest rain I’ve experienced in my lifetime. I’m grateful for a very well-made poncho. So here are some take-aways:

  • People care about the game of football.

A significant percentage of the attendees were knowledgeable about the game, its technique and execution, and the ramifications of each game for the standings and playoff options. Those who did not play the game as amateurs (and most who did) had taken the time to familiarize themselves with these things.

  • People care about “their” team.

Rooting for the “home team” is a significant part of the attraction of fandom and, more significantly, the decision to spend money and time on the in-person participation.

  • In person is better.

Even for those of us who were not wild about football, the game was remarkably more interesting, watchable, and entertaining in person than on TV.

  • There is something extremely valuable about the shared experience.

People like to share the game with like-minded people. I saw an astonishing amount of conversation/interaction among strangers. This is not typical of the way most of us normally live our lives. Such events allow us to bond (superficially, of course) with others in ways we would never do in different circumstances.

  • It’s about more than football.

As I’ve written before about minor league baseball (Lessons from the Ballpark) and Jimmy Buffett concerts (Lessons from a Pirate: I), the event, while the critical catalyst for gathering people together, is not the sole attraction. Tailgating, street dancing, chanting, singing, and other forms of communal activity even outside the boundaries of the event facility serve as part of the package that entices people to part with their time and money.

  • And of course, beer doesn’t hurt.

As the Germans would say, aber natürlich (roughly, “but of course”).

So, my thoughts for the arts?

  • Much lamentation has been offered about the lack of participation in the arts in schools today. Granted. The world is far different than it was when I was in junior high. Much smaller percentages of our students do the arts in school than used to be the case. That said, perhaps we should be making a big deal about developing opportunities for adult participation in the arts.
  • The arts are not about competition and so the “my team is going to beat your team” is not an applicable lesson. However, identification with the artists presented is a valuable goal. Further, arts organizations need to be seen as community players and supporters so people feel “warm and fuzzy” about them. This takes a commitment to a service mentality.
  • We need to keep hammering home the benefits of the live experience of art. In addition, we need to maximize the value to our communities of the shared experience. Let’s not keep everyone in “cones of silence” (metaphorically). We should be encouraging, in whatever ways work for our various art forms, people to enjoy the arts together.
  • Related to that, the art is one part of the whole experience from the attendee’s perspective. Let’s keep sight of that and maximize the possibilities in cooperation with purveyors of other services and by encouraging our communities to devise creative additions to our offerings, at least before or after events.
  • And beer? Give it some thought. :-) Let’s not get stuck in a wine ghetto.



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  1. Yoon-Hee J. says

    As a classical musician, I find it interesting to juxtapose the arts and football from a communal perspective and agree with how the arts community as a whole is struggling to find its place in the modern day society. I strongly agree with your points “In person is better” and “There is something extremely valuable about the shared experience.”

    I think this is why people spend some time and money to come to live concerts, and hope more people know it is well worth doing so. Even though one might think he would prefer to see the performer’s facial expressions or movements of fingers better through zoom-in camera and hear better with his own speaker, there is something special one could feel through live performance with the audience around you. The whole atmosphere of the live concert invigorates the excitement much more effectively. Even before we get to the performance venue, we put some efforts before enjoying the music which leads us to feel more engaged.

    However, there are many obstacles for arts to become more involved with the mass. I read or hear many stories that artists, musicians or others, who have ‘fine’ tastes in art, criticize what’s perceived to be divulgence or decadence of classical forms of arts to conform to capitalism or ‘vulgar’ tastes of the general public.

    There is definitely value in preserving and inheriting classical-ness of art or music, but today we face much harsh competition in attracting audience, for instance, football. The majority of people feel the arts to be too difficult to understand and save going to live performances or art museums for only special occasions. As a result, even many of the most prominent art or music organizations around the world heavily rely on the subsidies and donations from the government and private corporations. Having pride in the values that classical arts carry is one thing, yet I can’t exactly assert the reasons for arts’ necessities or sustainability if we neglect the importance of community engagement.

    I completely agree with your wine ghetto analogy; what are we so afraid of?