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If only New London shared the same passion for politics as sports

Funny thing about us sports dudes: The world sees us as myopic. Our purview doesn't extend past the vagaries of a 2-3 zone. Example: more than one person approached me at the New London mayoral debate the other night and wondered what I was doing there.

"This isn't a game," one person said.

Ah, but it is. Elections are "games" in a way. It's why they're called mayoral/gubernatorial/presidential "races." Sooner or later, we begin keeping score. Election Day is a game. For one day, anyway, politics become a sporting event. Pregame rhetoric surrenders to a scoreboard. People win, people lose. Scoreboards don't lie.

And so, I sat there the other night surveying the gym at Jennings School, site of the debate, looking at the people in attendance. I thought about all the other events I've witnessed in the gyms and on the fields in the city.

I thought I was somewhere in suburbia. The debate's attendees were overwhelmingly white.

New London is not overwhelmingly white.

Go to a football or a basketball game at the high school. Crowds are eclectic, accurate portrayals of the diversity in the 06320. This debate reflected no such thing.

I found it disturbing.

Straight up: There are segments of this city that just aren't in the game. It needs to change. Bonnie Raitt sings, "I can't make you love me if you don't." I can't make people care about this if they don't. But they need to start. It's the only way things change.

Know how things change? It's tied to Aaron Judge's quote in Saturday's New York Post. He was talking about the Yankees' approach to offense:

"We're just grinding out at-bats," Judge said. "Making it tough on their pitchers. It shows. Over the course of nine innings, if we keep doing that, it's going to pay off. Wear them down. Wear them down. It might take a little bit longer than we want, but eventually we're going to get them."

It's the same premise here: The only way change happens in the city is for an accurate cross-section of its residents to keep showing up. To care. And eventually, you wear them down. It might take a little bit longer than we'd like, as Judge said. But eventually, you'll get them.

I asked some friends of different colors and cultures their opinion as to why the debate crowd was so white. Many interesting answers:

The political process isn't necessarily as ingrained in them as perhaps sports are. Some feel the process is built to ignore them anyway, so what's the point? Some honestly couldn't get there because of work and childcare commitments. Some are hindered by a language barrier, which is why I appreciated that some of Frida Berrigan's responses came in Spanish.

I don't dispute any of it.

But this is where politics and sports differ. In sports, fans can send their strongest messages by not showing up. Ticket sales and merchandise revenues decline. Management quickly realizes that without change, the bottom line will bottom out.

Politics aren't the same. Residents can send their strongest messages by actually showing up. Yes, the process can be arcane. Yes, the rhetoric is nauseating. I mean, we can stay home and get lied to just as easily with a quick call to the insurance company, right?

But tethered to all that ails us in New London is an inimitable spirit. Being a "Whaler" doesn't mean you merely wore the uniform.  It means your heart is here.

The pigmentation situation at the debate bothered me because I'll be moving back to the city within the month. Why? Because my heart is here. I believe in it. And it's just not right that I can walk into football games, basketball games and Mr. G's and see who we are ... but I walk into a debate and see who we're not.

Worse, I get the feeling that many of us are more comfortable complaining on Facebook than actually doing anything about it.

New London needs a few pied pipers. People from all sections of the city to rally the troops and get them involved. Maybe the perception that the same things always happen here is because it's only the same people involved in the process.

That's got to change. I've been in the bleachers a million times at Conway Gym appreciating how the only colors we care about are green and gold. I'd like to see the next Board of Education meeting reflect the same sentiment.

I can't make you care if you don't.

But it's time, my friends.

It's time.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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