Have American Sports Become Too Patriotic?

ESPN Senior Writer Howard Bryant writes that sporting events in post-9/11 America have become “uncomfortably nationalistic,” pinpointing former President George W. Bush’s first pitch at Game 3 of the 2001 World Series (just weeks after 9/11) as the moment when the trend began.

A dynamic that was supposed to be temporary has become permanent. The atmospheres of the games are no longer politically neutral but decidedly, often uncomfortably, nationalistic. The military flyovers, the pre-game inclusion of the armed forces, and the addition of “God Bless America” to “The Star-Spangled Banner” are no longer spontaneous or reactions to a specific event, but fixtures.

Ostensibly, the injection of patriotism into game day was out to show respect for a country fighting two wars, but the Iraq war is over. The U.S., which once deployed nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, is down to under 60,000. Osama bin Laden is dead, but the sports-military-patriotism alliance, is very much alive and embraced as normal.

A friend and I were talking about this over lunch the other day, and I think Bryant has a point. He’s a bit overwrought in making it – military color guards, veterans and fly-overs were staples of sporting events well before 9/11 – but there’s something to be said for things being a little overdone.

I’m a Yankees fan, and I think this phenomena has been particularly acute at games in the Bronx. I remember George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch at Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium, and while that was a wonderful moment to this day the 7th inning stretch has been lengthened so that, as YES broadcaster Michael Kay puts it, the Yankees can “honor America.”

I have nothing against honoring America. I don’t share the distaste others seem to have for patriotism. But there is a point at which “honoring America” during every single 7th inning at every single one of 80+ home games a year because too much.

I worry less about sports becoming overly-nationalistic – how do you make baseball too American? – than I do about losing the meaning of honoring, and honoring those who serve it, through gross repetition.

If every single game becomes a ceremony to America, the none of them are. The intent of the celebrations, the meaning of the ceremonies, lose their sincerity when they happen every single day.

Honoring the troops, and honoring our country, at every single sporting events has taken on about the same amount of meaning as brushing our teeth before bed. It’s become a chore, and both our troops and country deserve better.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • WOOF

    Passive acceptance of authority, (please stand for the national anthem), homogenization of the conflict on the limited field with the war machines movements, building stadiums with tax dollars and everyone in the stadium is a part of the same endeavor for the greater good.
    Standing to sing ain’t standing up when you’re country calls.
    Play Ball !!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVeo6QMcbW4&feature=player_embedded

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I sometimes get the idea that you just pick a bunch of random sentence fragments from a Google search and dump them in the comment box.

      • WOOF

        I prefer brevity.

  • 7point62

    IMO,

    It has become bread and circus
    for a nation who lives on diversions and deceptions.

    Whoever can channel the “force”
    with their own ideologies,
    owns the message at the coliseum,
    as the gladiators have their thumbs up or down contests…

    the common enemies… the referees.

  • Roy_Bean

    You make a good point. Really, every time tens of thousands of people gather for any event its a tribute to the troops who put a boot in the asses of the terrorists and made it possible.

  • eury

    Totally agree with you on this one. Those fake patriotic things always just make me feel like I’m being recruited for something.

  • petrakeena

    Yes … but at the same time the flag being lowered to half staff has lost its true meaning due to the overuse of the procedure.

    • awfulorv

      There seems to be an overabundance of people who are called Heroes also, when they, rightfully, should be referred to as unlucky schmucks who were just doing their jobs.

  • Simon

    As long as patriotic ceremonies are genuine and sincere, I support it. I’m thankful every day for this great country. Honoring her and our troops doesn’t get old to me.

  • Bman

    Geez Rob. Maybe praying before every meal and giving thanks takes on the same meaning as brushing your teeth and becoming a chore. The tradition of singing the National Anthem began during WWI. Afterwards, it was mostly played for special occasions until WWII where it has been a staple to just about every sporting event.
    For me, and I’m sure for millions of other Americans, the meaning of honoring our country and troops doesn’t get old, or become a chore, or lose it’s meaning.

    • Prairiemom3

      Honoring our country by celebrating its continuous, unnecessary warmongering? Nonsense. Would you still love America if only fought in self-defense and had therefore just a modest-size military?

  • awfulorv

    One may ponder what the world would have become had Germany triumphed in World Warll. One thing is certain, it would have been a grand time for the flag making industry.

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