Both the travel and the beta read were awesome experiences. Part of the travel involved watching last Sunday's game at a really great Packer bar in NYC (Go Pack!).
Being from WI, Packer games are sacred weekly traditions in the fall, where everything pauses until the game's over and the final score pretty much determines the state's mood for the next week. As always, this got me thinking about writing, and I wondered how to work this depth of loyalty and fandom into written worlds.
It can be profoundly powerful to create this kind of constant for your characters. The sport, tradition or aspect that's always there, that always brings people together, even when everything's falling apart.
Think of Quidditch in the Harry Potter series, for example. It's a huge part of each book (even and especially when it becomes absent), and in the face of worldly stakes and the fight to defeat Voldemort, people still care, and care deeply, about their favorite Quidditch teams. This detail makes Rowling's world that much clearer and real to us. It's also a chance to reflect the mood and tenor of the story without needing to be in an all-stakes battle.
The force of constancy in your world doesn't have to be a sport. I'd argue that in Chronicles of Narnia, for example, it's family. For the seafaring nation in one of my earlier novels, it's a summer fishing festival. But no matter what you choose, I think it's important to identify a force like this, because things will go bad for your characters and they will need something to hold onto.
So, go on. Create that James Earl Jones moment for your world.