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5 reasons why Oklahomans love football

We published a story last week in which reporter Juliana Keeping stepped out of her comfort zone and onto a high school football field.

Not as a player, but as an Oklahoman.

She admitted she didn't care much for the sport. But, being a dutiful person, went ahead with her assignment: To find out why Oklahomans love football.

As she spent time learning the reasons why, she found her attitude toward the sport began to change.

So, what changed it?

Here are 5 reasons why Oklahomans love football.

No. 5 – It's ingrained since birth

During Keeping's time on the sidelines, she met a few high school-aged athletic trainers. They explained to her that, in their families, the love of football was something they always knew. "From the cradle," as Keeping described it.

While these handful of kids have their goals set on careers in sports medicine, their families congregated around the sport, much like the families of the athletes running the downs and passing the pig skin.

Which leads to the fact that football in Oklahoma is...

No. 4 – It's an institution

Jeff Miller, a middle-aged Oklahoma City man who happened to be out at the field just to watch the scrimmages, told Keeping that football in Oklahoma is "a staple ... an institution."

“Virtually every community has a high school football program. And a lot of times, it's a source of pride," he said.

Accuracy matters, and Miller spoke truth. And as Keeping did research on the state's history with the sport, she found Oklahomans' love for the game developed even before Oklahoma was a state. It's accessibility made it popular, much how soccer is now around the world.

Miller went on to explain that, when a small-town Oklahoma kid is successful in the sport, that the entire community shares that success.

Speaking of success, one state college in particular can take credit for some of this football love...

No. 3 – OU's success

Following the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties, the University of Oklahoma looked for a way to get potential students (and migrants in general) to forget about the depressing era and dust.

So, according to OU history professor emeritus William Savage, the college decided it was time for a winning college football program.

Famed Sooner coach Bud Wilkinson took it from there in 1947.

No. 2 – It's a way out

Santa Fe's Calvin Bundage is one of the best high school players in the state. The Oklahoman even ranked him as the state's top high school recruit.

When asked why he thought football was so important, Bundage said all that needs to be said: "You know, it's a way out for a lot of kids."

It's true. Football (and sports in general) does many things for Oklahoma youths, like...

No. 1 – It builds character by building a family

Shortly after Keeping arrived at Moore Stadium, she was taken aback by a coach shouting at his players.

"Don't be soft!"

She even rolled her eyes at the "macho" display.

Until she began listening and paying attention, just as the coach's players were.

Then, she understood: Football is full of life lessons, growing pains and memories. You can't win 'em all, but you always do your best. Such is life.

But beyond the coach and athletes, you have the athletic trainers, the hype men and mascots, the fans, the community.

Santa Fe's second string varsity wide receiver, Gabriel Baldini, told Keeping something poignant and honest: "Team has more meaning than running out on the field with 11 guys. We're all one team. If one person does it, we all do it."

The time Keeping spent on the field -- with the kids, fans, noises, smells, breeze -- changed her mind, her attitude. The football bug of Oklahoma bit her something fierce, as it has to many of us.

Now she knew. She understood why Oklahomans love football.

Read the complete story here.

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Richard Hall

Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008. Read more ›