Orange in a Blue State

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Andy Sauer

Connecticut’s a funny state. It’s the third smallest state in the nation, but it has 169 municipalities. To contrast, our neighbor Rhode Island has 39. Complicating matters is that each one of those Connecticut cities and towns believes itself to be an entity unto itself. Even towns that share a border, like, say, Suffield and Windsor Locks, consider the other to be so different as to be another state.

But there’s one thing that unites the Constitution State: UConn.

Wherever you are in Connecticut, you’ll find packs of Huskies. They surround you. People who have never stepped foot on the Storrs campus fly their Husky flags. Men, women and children sport UConn apparel. Every media outlet in state, even in New York City’s sixth borough of Fairfield County, devotes a major chunk of space and time to how good or bad the Huskies, men and women, are doing.

I am acutely aware of this deep devotion to the Huskies because I do not sport the UConn Blue, I wear Orange. I graduated from Syracuse University, class of 1989, and I remember the days when Connecticut represented an easy win for us on our way to the Big East title.

Those days are most certainly gone. As a nearly 25-year resident of the Constitution — I mean — Husky State, I have witnessed the transformation from conference bottom feeders to the nation’s preeminent basketball school.

I honestly believe that’s a good thing.

The other annual event that preoccupies Connecticut, the imminent budget crisis, always divides it. The rest of the nation may break into partisan lines, but Connecticut breaks into parochial pieces.

On a macro level, the budget battle may reflect partisan ideals on taxes and spending, but in the budget-line-item trenches, hometown legislators fight back-to-back for the state dollars their city or town is counting on. It can get strange, seeing disparate lawmakers literally coalesce in corners of the Capitol to defend sometimes desperately needed funds. City or town takes priority over party, ideals and even state, often muddying up an already cloudy pool of water.

Nonetheless, one day a year, the Connecticut General Assembly celebrates the only thing that truly unites it on Husky Day, when the men and women from the University of Connecticut basketball and football teams come to Hartford, ostensibly to thank the state for supporting a public university but mostly to let lawmakers let their inner Husky supporter shine. For at least one day a year, the entire Capitol is united by one common statewide passion.

And, I guess I can get behind that.

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