A couple of days before the Super Bowl I expressed my disagreement with Washington Post opinion writer Tricia Jenkins’ claim that sports games “have become stages for large-scale patriotic theater” featuring “militaristic rituals” — a left-over from when such “rituals” were “deliberately designed to promote unity during times of crisis,” habits that have “stuck around far longer than needed, making sports feel less like pastimes than pep rallies for our military or a particular war.”
Jenkins predicted several instances of such “patriotic gimmickry” to take place during the Super Bowl.
And by God, just about every one of Jenkins’ predictions of “military jingoism” materialized at the Super Bowl.
The stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Alicia Keys, the military color guard, flag imagery, Jennifer Hudson’s touching delivery of “America the Beautiful,” and what Jenkins might have indignantly described as “a ‘jarring’ military-themed, ‘vaudeville’ commercial designed to be a recruitment tear-jerker put on by the Chrysler military-industrial complex in hopes that such ‘theatrics will result in recruitment boosts’ and narrated by ultimate neocon warmonger, Oprah Winfrey.”
In fact, Chrysler’s two-minute commercial — considered by many to be one of the best of the Bowl — sent a moving, powerful message about the sacrifices of our military and their families, encouraging military families to keep the faith, hope and courage until their loved ones return.
And just like Jenkins predicted, CBS did “cut to shots of troops watching the game overseas” Yes, we did see our troops at 4 a.m. Afghanistan time standing at attention while our national anthem was sung in balmy New Orleans and while a driving snowstorm was battering their tents at Camp Courage. (Photos of our troops watching the Super Bowl at Camp Courage, Kabul, can be seen here)
But while Ms. Jenkins probably saw the “cut” as just another staged example of “cheap thrills” “for large-scale patriotic theater,” I saw a couple of dozen of our men and women thousands of miles from home, away from their loved ones and constantly in harm’s way, trying to savor “a little taste of home” as Lt. Col. Andrew Ajamian told Heath Druzin at the Stars and Stripes, looking for “[a] chance to forget about where we are and what we’re doing for a while.”
Another officer, Army Col. John Sheard, who helped organize the Super Bowl “party” told the Stripes he was just trying to give the troops a brief slice of home to take their minds off the difficulties of deployed life.
While CBS did not have the opportunity to cut to other godforsaken places where our troops are serving, here are a few more images of our troops in Afghanistan and around the world watching the same Super Bowl you and I watched but one we watched in the comfort of our homes and surrounded by loved ones and friends.
U.S. Soldiers with the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division watch the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens during a Super Bowl 47 celebration at Forward Operating Base Masum Ghar, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The Soldiers, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., are serving in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth)
Logistics Specialist Seaman Christopher McEvoy watches the Super Bowl aboard the mess decks of U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). Blue Ridge is currently underway in the Philippine Sea conducting sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rafael Figueroa Medina)
During the Iraq War, at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq, 1st Sgt. Willie Johnson, first sergeant for A Company, 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), reacts to a play as he and other “Wagonmaster” Soldiers watch the 2010 Super Bowl, below (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade public affairs)
While there was only one comment on my post at TMV (thank you KP), there have been more than 70 comments on a similar column I posted at the Huffington Post. While not too surprised, I am somewhat disappointed that the vast majority of readers at Huff Post, through their comments, answered with a resounding “no” to Jenkins’ “When we cheer for our team, do we have to cheer for America, too?” **
I am even more perturbed to read that Rush Limbaugh used Ms. Jenkins’ opinion column — which he apparently read more or less in its entirety on air — as “proof” that Sunday’s patriotic proceedings at the Super Bowl made liberals “nervous” and “queasy,” and concluded “this one author’s opinions [Jenkins] must represent all of liberal America.”
I pray it does not.
**Feedback at the Washington Post was extensive — more than 600 comments — and overwhelmingly critical of Ms. Jenkins column.
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