Hillsdale, Michigan. Sports is not one of the topics that regularly comes up on the Front Porch. Human flourishing, whatever that possibly could be this side of the Garden of Eden, would appear to have little to do with the exorbitant amount of money citizens of this U.S. republic spend on athletics. Health care crisis? Why not national sports insurance to bring down the price of a beer and hot dog at the ballpark? And yet, sports, even the professional leagues, is one of the enduring aspects not so much of localism (though high school contests are pretty local) but of American regionalism. You can generally discover an adult’s geographical roots by asking him (not so much her, sorry ladies), which teams he follows.

Part of the inspiration for these unremarkable thoughts was the golf outing that brought together three FroPo’s yesterday just outside of Battle Creek, Michigan. (It was also decidedly ecumenical.) I would like to say that no fossil fuels were used in assembling these duffers and that few pesticides were used on the course we played. I would even prefer to report that no golf carts were driven on said course. But modern golf architecture being what it is, with distances upwards of a quarter-mile between holes and rangers demanding that golfers maintain speed of play, we could not enjoy the walk that makes a round truly enjoyable. Even so, Lord Dumb-Ass (Eastern Orthodox), Professor Polet (Roman Catholic), and I (vinegary Orthodox Presbyterian) butchered and joked our way through one of Michigan’s better courses yesterday before enjoying our own version of the nineteenth hole at one of the state’s better breweries. I would also prefer to note that no off color limericks were told, but the Bar Jester’s new status as Michigan landed gentry has not altered his funny bone. Which is to say, it was a delightful assembly of Front Porch Republicans. No business conducted, simply friendly banter and an occasional good shot.

And with the links between sports and localism tentatively proposed, along comes a remarkable piece found recently in the sports pages of the local newspaper (thanks to my paleoconservative neighbor):

When the Hillsdale Daily offered me a job as the sports editor I immediately wanted to throw my belongings back into the bed of my truck and race north. By August 10th I was driving past shoulder high corn stalks. As I crossed the county line, I couldn’t have been much happier.

I gained a great deal of appreciation for Hillsdale County during my time on the coast. For one, Hillsdale provides space. An abundance of open green land affords us the opportunity to farm, build, garden, hunt, and teach a boy to throw a football or a girl to pitch a soft softball. The land is an essential part of who we are. This connection to the land demands an awareness of the seasons. With each season we perform different chores, play different sports, and repeat different traditions. The order of the seasons gives order to our lives. Right now, for example, the summer heat is surrendering to crisp autumn air. Farmers will spend late nights in their combines while teenagers break out sweat shirts and invite classmates over for bonfires. While we often take these traditions for granted they add richness to our lives.

Many people choose Hillsdale in order to stay close to family and friends. This sense of community is exhibited in many ways but it might be most obvious on Fridays in the fall. We flock to dusty high school parking lots, find a place under those Friday night lights, and cheer on sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, classmates, and friends. We support students who cheerlead or play trumpet in the band. No matter whom we go for, we share in the pageantry, the passion, and the notion that it’s not simply about winners and losers but working hard and performing with class. Therein lays the appeal of foregoing long days of surfing on the sun-bleached shores of Cape Hatteras and coming home to report from the playing fields of Hillsdale. A life rooted in family, community, and the land is a good life.

Perhaps sports should be a Category for articles (short or long) at the Porch.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Our president is trying to destroy some of the regionalism that remains in pro sports by turning it into a subsidiary of the central government’s Ministry of Truth, aka propagandists for Affordable Health Care.

    BTW, you may have driven past my house to get to Yarrow. Occasionally I ride my bicycle the long way home from work, which means riding past (or through) Yarrow. But while it’s a pretty route with little traffic, it also means a couple extra miles and a couple of stretches of gravel.

    But I don’t partake of golf. a) It’s a decadent, bourgeois sport. b) It’s expensive c) I’m not any good at it. And what’s regional about golf?

    I wouldn’t have been at home to wave as you went by. While you were at the unlikely candidate’s place, we were at a pretty good microbrewery on the left side of the state.

  2. The link between sport and localism–or regionalism–is certainly worth attention; especially considering allegiance to one’s local teams and schools is one of the most ingrained ways in which people identify with their place and, among the collegiate ranks in particular, a facet of American life under duress.

    Forgive the self-citing here, but FPR did run a piece on Nebraska’s switch to the Big 10 a couple of years ago: https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2011/02/pure-football/

  3. “But I don’t partake of golf. a) It’s a decadent, bourgeois sport. b) It’s expensive c) I’m not any good at it. And what’s regional about golf?”

    Those are the sorts of comments and questions posed by someone who doesn’t golf. And, of course, it’s hard to be good at something if you don’t “partake” of it.
    https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2009/08/golf-in-the-modest-republic/

    It was a fine day on the course with my fellow Porchers, even if a certain unnamed Notre Dame professor was unable to join us. Yarrow is a Raymond Hearn design, a company whose approach mirrors that of the Golden Age of architecture: making the course harmonious with its natural terrain, incorporating its environmental features into sightlines to enhance aesthetic enjoyment, and making it playable for golfers of all levels.

    I do have some complaints about the design, however, which make the course something a golf course should never be: virtually unwalkable. There is far too long a walk from the clubhouse to the first tee, and there are some significant distances between greens and the next tee. One of the underappreciated elements of classic Mackenzie designs: the proximity of tees to greens. Think about Amen corner, for example. My recommendation to Yarrow would be to reroute the holes to make the course walkable, and thus also more affordable and convivial.

    I can’t say any of us golfed at a particularly high level, but the conversation and companionship were at a high level and made up for average ballstriking. The Bar Jester is the only person I know who starts his downswing with a curse.

    • Since I don’t know a better place to do it, I’ll call attention to a nice review of Professor Hart’s book, “Calvinism: A History,” in today’s WSJ. Makes me want to read it, anyway.

  4. A reviewer’s comment on the WSJ article: “My German heritage leaves me somewhat sympathetic to a group of people founding a church based on sausage, however, theologically it doesn’t seem that sound.”

    Another comment (about predestination and the Dutch Boers) had me googling to find out what side Calvinists took in the Progressive movement’s campaign for Prohibition. So far I haven’t learned much, in large part because the term “prohibition” seems to have a lot of other connections to Calvinism, at least on the web. Try googling for “Calvinism prohibition” and you’ll see what I mean.

  5. John G., for what it’s worth, the liberal (William Sloan Coffin) and fundamentalist (William Jennings Bryan) Presbyterians supported Prohibition. Confessional Presbyterians (perhaps too much insider Presbyterian baseball here) like J. Gresham Machen, opposed Prohibition. I wrote my dissertation on Machen, so there is a book somewhere.

    • So if I read your book, Professor Hart, I’ll bet I’ll find out whether non-support of Prohibition was based on non-support in the Bible (as the reviewer said you said), predestinational fatalism, and/or something else. You definitely have some interesting looking titles. The only thing is, most of the history I’m attracted to gives me some bicycle destinations. I’m planning an October ride to the site of the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, for example, and have ridden to sites connected to controversies between missionary baptists vs primitive baptists, for another. I can find bike ride destinations in unlikely places (I’ve already figured out how a tour in Russia can be connected to the 1832 Black Hawk war) but your books might be a challenge.

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