Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) practice for the San Diego Padres opening day flag ceremony in April, 2011. Approximately 300 volunteers unfurled an 800-pound flag that covered the entire field.( Photo: Courtesy U.S. Navy by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane)
I believe that a little patriotism, a little "supporting the troops," a little flag-waving and "even" the singing of our national anthem and saluting our colors at sports events is perfectly OK.
Apparently, not everyone feels that way.
Washington Post opinion writer Tricia Jenkins believes that sports games "have become stages for large-scale patriotic theater" and she calls many of the "militaristic rituals" we see in sports events as a left-over from when such "rituals" were "deliberately designed to promote unity during times of crisis," habits that have "stuck around far longer than needed, making sports feel less like pastimes than pep rallies for our military or a particular war."
Jenkins explicitly or implicitly resents, criticizes or uses as examples to bolster her narrative, the "stirring renditions" of our national anthem -- including "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America" -- the military color guard, flag imagery, CBS cutting to shots of troops watching the game overseas, the recognition of veterans on the stadium's video boards, etc. She laments how such patriotic displays have "only gotten more inventive."
Imagine the outrageous inventiveness of having Air Force paratroopers jump out of planes and glide "onto the field to deliver the game ball to officials." And, adding insult to injury, imagine the military covering "the costs of flyovers and paratroopers by logging those events as training exercises" and the military hoping that such "theatrics will result in recruitment boosts."
Fortunately for Jenkins and -- as she suggests -- for the taxpayers, there probably will not be a militaristic flyover by those gas-guzzling fighter jets this Super Bowl because the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is covered. Surprisingly, Jenkins does not mention the fact that U.S. fighter jets will be patrolling the skies over New Orleans and the Superdome during the game -- additional proof of the "militarization" of the Super Bowl and sports events in general.
This Sunday, there will be other examples of such "vaudeville", "cheap thrills" and "militarized pageantry" following the presentation of the nation's colors kicking off Super Bowl XLVII.
One of these excesses will be Alicia Keys singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- and she won't be lip-syncing.
However, ultimate proof that we have transformed our sports events into patriotic gimmickry and naked militarism is the fact that for Super Bowl 47, a member of the military will actually be suiting up for the game. Chad Hall, an Air Force Academy graduate, an Air Force Reserve captain and a San Francisco 49ers wide receiver will be in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday ready to play for the 49ers.
When will this stop?
What comes next?
Jenkins mockingly fears, "Navy SEALs sneaking through the bleachers to deliver free pizzas? Beer sold in combat-boot-shaped cups? Or maybe miniature drones dropping T-shirts onto the crowds below"
Just as I have categorically rejected the right-wing's notion -- accusation is a better word -- that not supporting the Iraq war translated into not supporting the troops, I adamantly reject the "other side's" suggestion that, somehow, replacing or supplementing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with "God Bless America" at a baseball game, or having Air Force paratroopers land on the field during a football game, or waving little American flags at a basketball game, somehow translates into patriotic gimmickry and militaristic rituals.
Give me a break.
Just like not supporting an unnecessary war does not make one un-American, enjoying all-American traditions at a sports event does not make one a warmonger.
Enjoy the game Sunday.
Image: Courtesy Department of Defense