SANTA CRUZ, February 18, 2014 — As millions worldwide watched the latest Super Bowl, they were treated to a massive American flag stretched the length of the football field, a fly over by fighter jets, and images of combat soldiers. Strife does exist in the world, and a case can be made that the United States will always need a standing army, but these stark trappings of nationalism do not need to be embedded into every American sporting event. In the United States, organized sports have become the trojan horse with which jingoism is carried into our national consciousness.
Everybody buys in, particularly the major networks that predominantly sponsor American sports. From baseball’s opening day to the World Series, no event appears to be off limits as an opportunity to paint America as a lily-white champion of freedom everywhere. Football broadcasts are especially odious, often replete with gratuitous images of American combat troops. Broadcasters launch into weepy soliloquies about how grateful they are for all the brave men and women out there protecting our collective freedom.
If people want to debate the pros and cons of perpetual war, drone bombing, and targeted assassinations, the arenas do exist to have those discussions. To surreptitiously slip these subtle codes of allegiance into sports broadcasts, though, is at best in poor taste. At worse it is pure propaganda.
Most people tune in to organized sports for a brief distraction from a world which grows more complicated by the day. They want to unwind and watch events which, at their best, demonstrate sacrifice, selflessness, teamwork and an ability to gladly play a small part of a greater whole. These values can be unconsciously translated into Americans’ everyday lives, the ways they interact with their friends, family and coworkers.
There is value in America’s vibrant sports culture, and there are bad apples who can taint the experience. Sports, and the highly paid athletes who play them, must be viewed objectively for maximum social benefit.
When sporting events become free advertising for war profiteers and the dodgy morality which drives them, the country begins to lose sight of sports’ primary role: to entertain. These days, sports broadcasts subtly demand unquestioning submission to a dangerous military agenda, calling us to blindly worship the men and women who are tasked to carry it out. To question or dissent is tantamount to treason, singling one out as un-American. There is no longer anything separating organized sports from this hawkish national identity, and the younger the viewer, the more indelibly the doctrine is planted.
Organized sports has been described as the toy department of life, and that is where it should remain. When it is used to proffer a pro-war message and muddy the waters of national identity, it is ruined for everyone. Leave the flags, guns, fighter jets and soldiers out of it. It is neither the time or the place to invoke these images on an audience which probably does not even realize it is being indoctrinated.
Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.