Monday, May 11, 2015
I also have reason to support military veterans, whether it be at the college at which I teach, or from a more personal perspective: My son is a Marine, my uncle was a Navyman, and I’m in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
But I am also a student of history, and what I see occurring at sports stadiums today is frightening at best.
In his 2003 seminal essay, “The 14 Characteristics of Fascism” in Free Inquiry Magazine, political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt summarized the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile). Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. Some of these include:
Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – [the] constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, [and] songs….in public displays
Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals...
Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding... Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
Obsession with Crime and Punishment - The police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism.
Enter the Sport Stadium: the largest on-going collection of citizens in "public displays."
Now, I expect the National Anthem at the start of a sporting event. I look forward to it, to be honest. And I even appreciate the playing of other nation’s anthems when the match is international. But the trend is now towards something very unsettling – so unsettling that it’s reminiscent of the elements of Fascist Propaganda cited above.
The last time I went to a Mets game Citifield, I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable when I was exposed to a “new tradition” in the 6th inning: the announcer required that we all stand, sing God Bless America, and participate in honoring ‘the veteran of the day.’ The fact that a stadium full of thousands dutifully rose as soon as they were told to, in order to honor the military, should cause some pause. In fact, it’s downright chilling.
I thought this was a one-time special event; I have since observed this ceremony multiple times, at multiple baseball stadiums. It’s now the norm.
This past week, the Washington Post revealed a ‘formal,’ paid relationship between the government and the NFL for much the same type of intertwining of the military state and sport.
As articulately expressed by www.FreeThoughtProject.com,
“The national anthem is a long, drawn-out, pregame event. There’ll be a flyover by the Blue Angels at the perfect, climactic moment. During a break in the action, some soldier returning from Afghanistan or any other foreign war-zone will be reunited with his family while the stadium erupts in deafening applause and heart wrenching sobs.
Well, hold off on purchasing those tickets just yet, because the Washington Post found something interesting this week. All this patriotic propaganda- the troop-salutes, the banner ads, even the community service events where troops and NFL teams “build or re-build” a playground together, come with a price tag.
Fourteen NFL teams were paid a total of $5.4 million by the Department of Defense to cover the nationalistic propaganda filling downtime during the games.”
That’s right: not some organic, groundswell of thanks to our vets; but a paid program by the Pentagon to create a pro-military groupthink at a captured audience. Think about that.
So yesterday, perhaps my sensitivity was on high alert, but what I saw at a Major League Soccer game was equally scary. Soccer – often thought of as the international, or even “un-American” sport – took its required worship of the Police State to yet another level.
In the wake of the murder of NY Police Officer Brian Moore – thousands of police officers from around the nation lined the highways of Seaford, NY for his funeral. It was portrayed as a show of “support” for the officer and his family – but of course, the majority of those in attendance wouldn’t have known him if they had tripped over him when he was alive. Rather, at a time when police wrongdoing is revealed daily on websites such as CopBlock.org, this was not a show of respect as much as a show of force: the Blue Line that protects its own, showing its muscle and demanding respect and awe from the public.
The start of the inaugural match between the New York Red Bulls and the New York City Football Club in Harrison, NJ, was launched with a moment of silence for the slain officer (I could argue that while police officers get such treatment, hundreds of innocent Americans slain by police get no such honor…but I won’t belabor that point.) But then the players entered the field – with black armbands. They didn't read, “Moore” – they read “NYPD.”
Yes, I have a problem with that.
At a time when there is a public relations war between the cops and the citizens they are supposed to serve; when police defiantly turn their back on the Mayor of New York City when he dares to criticize their tactics; when courtrooms have revealed the systematic and routine planting of evidence on innocent citizens; when military equipment and armaments are being distributed to civilian forces – yes, I have a problem with two sports teams being required by their league to “take sides.” When I was insolent enough to suggest so on a Supporters Club website, the post was removed by administrators with no explanation.
When I was merely 2 years old, none other than General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned,
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."
BBC’s documentary “Fascism and Football” is described thusly: “A documentary on how the Fascist regimes of Spain, Italy and Germany made football an important pillar of their propaganda and the lengths they went to in order to control the sport…”
Sports Fans, take note: The next time the masses at the stadium is told what to do, and how to do it, and when to do it, in an effort to honor the Police State – be aware of how you are being used – and the history behind it.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
It’s no secret that I view sportswriters with a very cynical eye. I have seen too many sportswriters frothing at the mouth to destroy some player due to sexual flings or dalliances with ‘performance-enhancing substances.’ I have often wondered how many of these writers suffered from “I-can’t-play, so-I’ll-criticize-players” syndrome. And I have also wondered how much homophobia in sports is due not only to the tight-lipped locker room code of silence, but to the complicity of homophobic writers as well.
So, the coming out story of Jason Collins this week provided some interesting reads, as news services tripped over themselves trying to get the now-feel-good story.
But buried under the story of the gay athlete, imbedded in the writings of these very sportswriters, lie the seeds of conservatism that reveal their regressive stances. Take these three bylines about Collins’ decision:
From ESPN: “Jason Collins said has gotten "incredible" support since coming out as the first openly gay player in one of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues…”
From The Sporting Scene, in New Yorker Magazine: “Jason Collins…has made history, becoming the first active male player in any of the big four of American sports leagues—baseball, hockey, basketball, and football—to come out as gay.”
And from the Reuters News Service: “Collins, a 12-year player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), became the first active athlete from any of the four major U.S. men's professional sports leagues to come out publicly as gay.”
Now, in addition to learning that Jason Collins has come out as gay, (and in addition to wondering if there is a little plagiarism going between the New Yorker and Reuters), what other ‘fact’ could you glean from those three representative statements?
“one of the four major…”
“any of the big four…”
“any of the four major…”
Ah. There must be Four (count them) major Professional Sports leagues in America.
And indeed, for decades, writers referred to “The Big Four” – Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey.
One has to wonder how long they will go along blithely repeating the same rubbish, in light of the fact that the United States is no longer a land of Four professional sports, but Five.
Some Attendance figures from the 2012 season to consider:
- National Football League: 66,960
- Major League Baseball: 30,352
- Major League Soccer 17,872
- National Basketball Assn: 17,319
- National Hockey League: 17,126
My, what’s this? Yes, in 2012, attendance at Professional, Major League Soccer games exceeded both Basketball and Hockey.
In 2007, Major League Soccer became the fifth professional team sport to turn a profit from media revenue. It was also the first year that every single MLS match was televised - something neither Basketball nor Hockey can claim.
By 2010, three MLS teams had turned profits. That may not sound very exciting, except when one compares that to testimony by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who reported to Congress in December 2001 that professional baseball on the whole had suffered 232 million in losses, and only nine of thirty MLB turned a profit. Last year, eleven of thirty NBA teams lost money.
Perhaps most telling, according to Forbes Magazine, during the year before the NHL lockout, only three of 18 Hockey teams turned a profit: the same proportion as Major League Soccer.
A recent study showed that among twenty-year old Americans, Professional Soccer is now the #2 sport in America.
So, Jason Collins is the first openly gay man in the “Big Four?”
Guys, perhaps the writing pool needs to lake a long, hard look at itself. The United States, by all criteria, is now a nation of the “Big Five.” But because someone, some decades ago, decided to call team sports the “Big Four,” the writers continue to parrot an anachronistic – and incorrect – statement of the state of sports in America.
Yes, reporters, you too are responsible for the regressive, conservative attitudes within sports and its fan base. Get with the 21st Century…please? Start giving Soccer it's place among the other four sports leagues, and stop dismissing a major American sport as an ethnic oddity kid-sport to be brushed aside.