Ms. Jenkins -and I’m sure it must be “Ms.”- bemoans the fact that we use sporting events for displays of patriotism, which “quiets political dissent.” Since when did football or baseball games need to be a venue for political dissent? It’s noted in the byline that “Ms.” Jenkins is an assistant professor of film, television and digital media – talk about your useless pursuits, all wrapped into one big useless degree. Here’s a suggestion for Ms. Jenkins: if it’s too, too much for you to bear displays of patriotism and the symbols of a country that affords you the freedom to protest and freely complain, get the hell out. I’m sure Iran, or Egypt, or Afghanistan would be great places for you to express your mind.
Sports games — some of the only events that lead Americans to set their differences aside and sit down and watch together — have become stages for large-scale patriotic theater. This is no accident; many of the militaristic rituals we see in stadiums and arenas across the country were deliberately designed to promote unity during times of crisis. But they’ve stuck around far longer than needed, making sports feel less like pastimes than pep rallies for our military or a particular war.
During World War II, team owners introduced the national anthem and ceremonies honoring the armed forces as a way to win President Franklin Roosevelt’s support for continuing play amid the conflict. The weekend after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle inserted moments of silence and flag ceremonies into his league’s games.
The small flag decals on many athletes’ uniforms arose from basketball and football organizers’ desire to show unified support for the Persian Gulf War. And “God Bless America” has replaced or supplemented “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during baseball’s seventh inning stretch; the New York Yankees introduced this tradition after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But gestures that once offered comfort have become habit. And the patriotic displays have only gotten more inventive. College football’s national championship game last month between Notre Dame and Alabama featured Air Force paratroopers who jumped out of a plane and glided onto the field to deliver the game ball to officials.
Sure, it’s a thrill for fans in the stadium. But such vaudeville quiets political dissent.