At the Podium
St.John’s discussion of Outcasts United focuses not only on the inspiring story of the Fugees Soccer Team but also on the lessons the team and Clarkston provide on the question of how we build community in environments in which people seem to have little in common. He discusses the ways in which the fresh perspectives of newcomers allow us to reexamine our own way of life, as well as the role volunteerism can play in building bridges across social chasms. His talk is motivational but firmly rooted in his reporting on this extraordinary community, which he calls “a laboratory in getting along.”
In a separate program, St. John brings to life his season aboard a 20-year-old RV with rabid fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide. In an insightful look at the sociological and psychological explanations of fandom, St. John sheds light on why so many can be so easily affected by the outcome of games they themselves aren’t playing. Fans of any sport or team will enjoy St. John’s insight, but more so will people who themselves aren’t fans, but who have to live with spouses, friends and co-workers who become unglued at the slightest mention of their team.
His remarks were thought provoking and the students responded very positively.
- University of North Florida
About Warren St. John
Warren St. John is a feature writer for The New York Times and best-selling author of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania (2004). His latest book Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town (2009) was released to rave reviews and in fall 2012, he released a young adult version of the book.
In the span of just a decade, Clarkston, Georgia transformed from a typical small southern town into one the nation’s most diverse communities—a place where children from 50 different countries attend the once all-white local high school. In Outcasts United, St. John explores the impact of this radical change on refugees and townspeople through the story of a Clarkston youth soccer team called the Fugees. The team, coached by a Jordanian-born woman named Luma Mufleh, consists of players from more than 15 different war-torn countries, who, despite their differences and hurdles placed in their way by locals opposed to resettlement, find ways to connect and cohere across broad cultural divides.