If you have even an inkling of interest in college football you know about some of the great rivalries that exist and the traditions they carry. One of them, commonly known as the Red River Shootout between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, occurred just this past weekend. What makes this contest particularly unique, besides the rivalry between two great bordering state universities, is that it is played on neutral turf. Part of its great tradition is that instead of being played in the usual alternating home stadiums the game takes place in Dallas, Texas located almost exactly halfway between the two universities’ campuses. They meet on common ground.
Notwithstanding its location here in my home city, being a native Texan and UT alum myself makes this annual event one of high personal intensity for me. But it has become even more so in recent years after our son Cecil, also an avid Longhorn fan, married Sharra, an Oklahoma native and avid Sooner fan. You can imagine the tension in their household this past weekend! And you might think that being the father-in-law I might be excused from the banter. Not so! No, my daughter-in-law does not let me off the hook, nor do her siblings. Nor is the family rivalry confined to one mere Saturday in October. Indeed it is a sparring match that continues year round. . . . . Yet in spite of our differences in the respective loyalties each side of the family holds for its revered universities, this rivalry has hardly become a source of division in our family. To the contrary, it is a source of unity; for our intense interest in the game itself and the fun we all have sparring with each other has made it a place where we find common ground.
This Texas-OU rivalry (or OU-Texas as my daughter-in-law insists) is a great metaphor for finding common ground. Think how much it could benefit others to adopt such a model. On common ground politicians and world leaders could engage in more fruitful debate, as could employers and employees, people with different religious and philosophical beliefs, teachers and students, parents and children. Finding common ground fosters listening and understanding, creating space for civil debate to occur – and while opposing sides need not necessarily compromise their convictions common ground is a place for unity to form where differences otherwise exist. In the spirit of Texas and OU we would all be better off by finding more common ground, don’t you think?