On the opening weekend of the college football season and nearly 30 minutes after the conclusion of College GameDay, President Barack Obama announced that he has decided America’s military “should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” but he would first seek Congressional approval.
On Saturday, Obama said from the White House that he would “seek authorization from the American people from their representatives in Congress.” And though he said he believed he could carry out the actions without Congressional authorization, Obama said he felt the “country will be stronger” with it. Obama said he spoke to all four leaders in Congress, and they agreed to schedule debate and have a vote as soon as Congress returns from its August recess. He said the military actions would not be “time-sensitive.”
“We are ready to strike whenever we choose,” Obama said, noting he was ready to give the authorization.
The timing of his announcement underscored the the power of college football, which unifies Americans in an age of hyper-polarization and fragmentation. He made the announcement after Americans finished ritually watching ESPN’s College Gameday, which went from 9AM EDT to 1PM EDT to commemorate the kickoff of the college football season–and other college football pre-game shows–and started to sit down and get comfortable on their couches to watch an afternoon’s worth of football on television.
Obama, who has filled out college basketball brackets for ESPN every year since he has been in office, knows the power of sports in America’s culture, and is cognizant of the fact that live sports is one of the few things Americans collectively watch in real time. And throughout much of the country, college football is king.
Obama’s announcement hit when it would have the maximum impact–after the college football shows and before the primetime slate of games–and Americans heard Obama saying that the Assad’s regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons was an “assault on human dignity” and a “serious danger to our national security,” and that is why he decided he limited military action was necessary even though the country was “weary” of war.
In a country in which Americans often are not listening to same music, watching the same television shows, sharing common experiences or even learning the same history, for that matter, perhaps only issues of war and peace get the attention of Americans more than college football.