ARLINGTON, Texas (Nov. 13, 2011) Sailors assigned to Navy Recruiting District Dallas hold a giant American Flag on the field at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of a Dallas Cowboys home game against the Buffalo Bills. The Dallas Cowboys Football Club honored all five branches of the armed forces during pre-game and halftime ceremonies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Tackitt/Released)
The forever war on terrorism, to which the country has become well accustomed, permeates US public culture. Militarism—the predominance of military virtues and ideals, the heavy investment in military capabilities, and the aggressive use of the military to advance national interests—is sanctioned routinely in political rituals large and small.
Tune in to a professional football game, for instance, to see opening ceremonies that feature a flag the size of the playing field, a military color guard, and a soloist in uniform singing the national anthem, culminating in a flyover by jet fighters. Along the sidelines, head coaches, their staffs, and players wear military camouflage caps and jackets. And so it goes, on and on. (more…)
Memorial set up by fans of Pat Tillman outside Sun Devil Stadium where he played football for the Arizona State University Sun Devils and the Arizona Cardinals. (Credit: James Fee / Wikimedia Commons)
The disturbing facts of Pat Tillman’s story are well-known, and yet we go over them repeatedly—in the face of the hagiography—in search of answers to unsettling questions. Pac-10 defensive player of the year as a senior at Arizona State; a record-breaking safety for the Arizona Cardinals; he left a multi-million dollar contract on the table to enlist with his brother in the U.S. Army (he became an Army Ranger): “My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars… and I really haven’t done a damn thing” (ESPN Classic).
In this, Tillman was one of those young Americans who enlisted in the armed forces following the attacks on 9/11. What was unusual was that he was a professional football player and a millionaire.
There was a time in the country’s history when the children of the rich and the offspring of powerful politicians felt compelled to defend the U.S. in times of peril. Theodore Roosevelt’s sons served during World War I and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sons served during World War II. George H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy were decorated World War II veterans. Professional baseball players enlisted in droves during WW II. Ted Williams interrupted his career at its peak to serve during the Korean War.
But in our times, Pat Tillman was an oddity because he volunteered to serve. Even more, he was a notable exception who embarrassed us, who revealed, by his committed patriotism, the flimsy nature of our own. (more…)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks for an open receiver as his offensive line forms a pocket around him, 4 December 2011. (Credit: Jack Newton / Wikimedia Commons)
If a player enters an elevator with his girlfriend, punches her in the face, then knocks her out and drags her by the hair out into a hotel corridor, the NFL considers that the incident merits a two-game suspension, as in the case of Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens. But if your team confabulates to deflate balls during football games, this merits a four-game suspension if you are Tom Brady.
If you are Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and take a switch to your 4-year old boy, and whip him in his arms, legs and buttocks until he bleeds, the NFL will bench you for a season with a scolding letter (“you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct”), and then reinstate you. But if you play for the New England Patriots and do not participate willingly in NFL investigations, your team will be fined $1M and future draft picks.
If you make the above comparisons, you will be told that they are not valid. After all, what are a beaten woman and an abused child when compared to the “integrity” of the game of football, and the sense of “fair play” that must exist so we can place our bets and play our fantasy leagues? We can summon infinite amounts of righteous indignation when our games are threatened. (more…)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in September of 2014. (Credit: Andrew Campbell / Wikimedia Commons)
The country will not be brought down by the Islamic State or by Arab extremists; it will not be toppled by abortion or by same-sex marriages. In the future, history will tell that the U.S. defeated communism, avoided the wiles of Satan, but could not transcend its own internal contradictions.
The country will decline and fall because it observes the Roman policy of panem et circenses regarding its citizens, keeping them satiated with bread and games while its plutocrats enrich their miserable selves—even at the expense of the destruction of the planet. We no longer worship—if we ever did—at the Church of Jesus Christ. On Sundays during the season we worship at the Church of Football, and the rest of the year we follow the vagaries of football teams and their players as if we were watching the war of the final days between angelic hosts. (more…)
Washington Redskins wordmark logo, introduced in 1972. (Sportslogo.net / Wikimedia Commons)
Is it necessary, this late in the day, to say that the team name is racist? Is it essential to point out that the name and logo dehumanize my Indian grandchildren, and make us—the non-Indians, strangers in their own land—complicitous in keeping alive the ghost of centuries of genocidal policies, concentration camps euphemistically called “reservations,” and racial violence?