The Militarization of Sports

September 7th, 2011 by Andy in What Is Patriotism?

As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it may be worth reiterating the words of William Astore, as he comments on the militarization of society, as it is reflected in how we celebrate sports.

This is an excellent column on a situation which has long bothered me. I’m also glad to know that I played a small part in this being written, having tipped Bill Astore off to this. This was thanks to an old, dear friend of mine who was a long time sportswriter covering the San Diego Padres, who turned me on to this new development with the Padres organization, and their “Military Affairs” division (which Astore writes about in this column). A sports team with a “Military Affairs” department?? (And ironically, a team named after a religious order). Has this nation finally and totally jumped the shark? This weekend might drive the point home, considering the fact that the NFL’s opening day falls on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and their will be no shortage of opportunity for this growing cultural phenomenon in America’s sports life to go full throttle.

War is not a sport; it’s not entertainment; it’s not fun. And blurring the lines between sport and war is not in the best interests of our youth, who should not be sold on military service based on stadium pageantry or team marketing, however well-intentioned it may be.

We’ve created a dangerous dynamic in this country: one in which sporting events are exploited to sell military service for some while providing cheap grace for all, even as military service is sold as providing the thrill of (sporting) victory while elevating our troops to the status of “heroes” (a status too often assigned by our society to well-paid professional athletes).

Which brings me to a humble request: At our sporting events, is it too much to ask that we simply “Play Ball?” In our appeals for military recruits, is it too much for us to tell them that war is not a sport?

Think of these questions the next time those military warplanes roar over the coliseum of your corporate-owned team.

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