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Stuart Stevens

Mark Halperin: Why is football such a big deal in the South?

Stuart Stevens: It’s actually a profound question. In part it’s because the South had no professional teams for many years, and that had an impact on the “Friday Night Lights” atmosphere that you had. I think that for a long time, when the South wasn’t very good at much, it was good at football – so there was an inverse pride in football which people clung to. I also think that there is something about the violence of football that appeals to southerners in a special way.

And the way in which football has changed the culture of the South, particularly the racial elements of the South… I find fascinating. It’s parallel with rugby in South Africa. It really was the first time, for many southerners, that blacks and whites cheered for each other, and meant it, and that’s been a very powerful force.

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From Stevens’s interview with Halperin on With All Due Respect in September.

Stevens, who was the top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, took leave from work the year after the failed run. In this time, he and his 95-year-old dad (pictured above) committed to revive their long dormant family tradition and attend every Ole Miss football game that season. You can read about their experiences and Stevens’s reflections on family, legacy, and the South in his new book The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football (I haven’t read the book, but you can see a short introduction below).

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