Sports’ military connection (5×8 – 2/23/11)


Is it time to dial back the patriotic festivities at sporting events? Commentator Frank Deford thinks so:

It’s also true that in the United States sports games are more associated with the military and mass displays of patriotism than are other amusements. I’ve always wondered why it is SOP — standard operating procedure — for the national anthem to be performed at games, when no one would ever expect “The Star-Spangled Banner” to be played at the theater or the opera or a rock concert or at the start of the Academy Awards this Sunday.

Why is this strictly an athletic devotion?

And, now, at the start of major sporting events, it’s also obligatory to have military jets flash overhead. The Olympics sends up doves; we send up fighter planes.

And yet, it can be magic:

Deford: It’s just a rote imposition. It would be better if ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ were saved for special occasions — championships.”survey software


There’s no other story in these parts these days than the one from Wisconsin. Here’s Gov. Scott Walker’s address to his people last night:

Sen. Mark Miller gave the Democrats’ response.

At last check, the Wisconsin Assembly is still debating the bill that strips some public unions of collective bargaining rights. They’ve been going all night.

So here we are, pretty much the same place were were yesterday. We’re talking about this on MPR’s Midmorning this morning. Walker’s comments are resonating with somebody. Several polls out of Wisconsin show he’s got significant support, although at the moment the public unions are getting most of the attention.

Richard Hurd, a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, told All Things Considered last night about how collective bargaining rights vary state by state. His statistics were fascinating, including this one: Public employees usually have better wages than the private sector, but that’s true in any state, whether there are unions or not. But public sector workers tend to be higher educated, he says, and on an education basis, are paid less than their private-sector counterparts.The New York Times’ editorial today takes the unions’ side:

The game is up when unionized state workers demonstrate a sense of shared sacrifice but Republican lawmakers won’t even allow them a seat at the table. For unions and Democrats in the Midwest, this is an existential struggle, and it is one worth waging.

And Mother Jones considers four possible ways this thing ends.

For the Daily Show, by the way, Wisconsin is comedy gold.


In Maryland, about 10,000 parole hearings are held each year. Only about three rape victims show up each year to try to keep their attacker in prison. The Washington Post has today’s must-read story of one of them.


In South Dakota, the House has sent a bill to the Senate requiring women to wait at least 72 hours after she meets with a counselor to determine if she is voluntarily seeking an abortion. The Argus Leader notes a new angle surrounding anti-abortion legislation: The need to compete with China:

“The United States is in a strategic competition with China. China is a country which has a military which teaches its soldiers to hate America, it’s a country that grows 10 percent a year economically, it has something like 1.4 billion people, and I think that we need to safeguard our economic growth and our population in order to compete with China,” (Rep. Brian) Liss said, adding his argument for the bill is “completely secular.”

Opponents of the legislation point out South Dakota has voted against a ban on abortions twice.


We don’t know very much about the circumstances surrounding this video. Only that family members of “Uncle Gerald” somewhere wanted to send him off with a fitting goodbye upon his recent death.

Bonus: The 9/11 Memorial Museum has just released a multimedia timeline, featuring new video.

Soon-to-be Viral Video of the Day: This is what it looked like in Japan when new Twins’ player Tsuyoshi Nishioka came to bat.



The political uproar in Wisconsin may be spreading to Ohio, where a similar bill to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees is under consideration. Could what’s happening in Wisconsin happen here?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The Wisconsin uprising.

Second hour:Is it still possible to reinvent yourself?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Rep. John Klinetalks about the Afghanistan war, the uprisings in the Arab world, and domestic concerns facing Congress.

Second hour: NPR’s “Intelligence Squared” series debate: “Is The Two Party System Making America Ungovernable?”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: States with budget problems.

Second hour: How Groupon is hurting old-line business.

  • The race to the bottom that the right side of the political spectrum has drove this country to has been resisted, sometimes inconsistently, by unions.

    Its not that we should demand that union workers get pay and benefits more in line with the rest of us, we should have pay and benefits more in line with theirs.

    Divide and Conquer. We are being divided and thus will be conquered. Do we really, really want a pre-union work Gilded Age again?

  • Drae

    I don’t mind the Anthem for all sports games. Especially baseball. Not many opportunities to sing it for most folks except at a game these days. Like the Pledge of Allegiance – when’s the last time anyone said it except maybe for a political meeting or school? And I rather like it at games to remind us what’s allowed us the ability to sit around and enjoy a sporting event.

  • c

    //And, now, at the start of major sporting events, it’s also obligatory to have military jets flash overhead. The Olympics sends up doves; we send up fighter planes.

    and why is that?

    when the Olympics were held in the US did we send up doves?

  • bsimon

    “There’s no other story in these parts these days than the one from Wisconsin.”

    On MPR, perhaps. The Strib’s front page emphasized baseball & a possible Minneapolis casino over the story in Wisconsin, political unrest in the mideast, or the earthquake in New Zealand.

  • Julia

    @Too Much Patriotism?

    I love the National Anthem before sporting events. We are bombarded with rhetoric and divisive actions daily; I think it is great to look around during the National Anthem, with so many people participating, and realize people say and do what they do because they care so much about their country and its future. Not everyone is always nice about expressing their opinions and they often go about tackling problems in different ways, but at least they care. And during the National Anthem, I feel camaraderie with those in the stadium – is that ever bad? Why should we experience this feeling even less frequently?

  • David

    Clearly attempting to decouple sports from the military is unAmerican and worthy of investigation under the Patriot Act, or worse. Just look what happened when someone suggested the Pentagon lose the 7 million dollars that it spends on NASCAR.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Empty patriotism goes hand in hand with the bread and circuses of professional sports.

    Gosh, the troops wear uniforms, and so do the players! And there’s good guys and bad guys, just like war! And we pay a lot of money and time to believe that they’re playing for us instead of living our own lives!

    In San Diego, the baseball team actually WEARS camouflage uniforms! How cool is that?!?

    I think we should not only sing the national anthem before games, but also recite the pledge of allegiance, swear that we’re not communists, and maybe be drug tested. (Keep the beer flowing, though.)

  • c

    Jim you are my teacher-

    nice post

  • John P

    We need a better national anthem. It’s all about a flag still being there. Big deal. I feel no connection to it except habit.

    Personally I like Canada’s better. It’s all about unity and pride. Easier to sing, too.

  • SG

    Amazing article in the Wash. Post. Thanks for posting it.

  • The Argus Leader needs to get out more or, at least, move out of the ’50s seige mentality. The PLA is not taught to hate the US any more than the US Army is taught to hate China. Those days, I thought, were long gone.