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Buying Patriotism

[ 142 ] November 5, 2015 |

Miliitary-Thank-you

The NFL and the Department of Defense: two vile organizations that deserve each other:

The Department of Defense doled out as much as $6.8 million in taxpayer money to professional sports teams to honor the military at games and events over the past four years, an amount it has “downplayed” amid scrutiny, a report unveiled by two Senate Republicans on Wednesday found.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake began looking into the Defense Department’s spending of taxpayer dollars on military tributes in June after they discovered the New Jersey Army National Guard paid the New York Jets $115,000 to recognize soldiers at home games.

The 145-page report released Wednesday dives deeper, revealing that 72 of the 122 professional sports contracts analyzed contained items deemed “paid patriotism” — the payment of taxpayer or Defense funds to teams in exchange for tributes like NFL’s “Salute to Service.” Honors paid for by the DOD were found not only in the NFL, but also the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. They included on-field color guard ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, and ceremonial first pitches and puck drops.

“Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it seems more appropriate that any organization with a genuine interest in honoring them, and deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer,” the report states.

DOD spent $53 million on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams from 2012 to 2015, the report found, but that also included legitimate ad campaigns such as stadium signs and social media mentions. However, it also included $6.8 million in contracts that contained activities the senators considered “inappropriate” patriotism for profit.

Patriotism for profit. I love it. There’s nothing more phony than professional sports tributes to the military, which primarily exist a) for fans to feel good about how much they love America and b) as recruiting tools for the military. Actual soldiers are largely irrelevant here and former soldiers who might be suffering from PTSD thanks to the pointless and idiotic wars of the last fifteen years are totally irrelevant and completely forgotten by the military, professional sports, and sports fans. It’s also worth noting that there is literally the NFL owners won’t do for money. One would think that if patriotism was the actual motivation here, the NFL would volunteer to hold these functions instead of taking cash for it. But no, of course not. The Pentagon manufactures patriotism, the NFL cashes in, older viewers feel good about their nation, and younger people volunteer for the military and get sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Everyone wins, right???

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  • SP

    But hey, if you don’t stand up for God Bless America you’re a veteran hating commie. I’ve had people at games yell at me for not respecting this bullshit song that is just as phony as “under God” in the pledge of allegiance.

    • Rob in CT

      Whenever they play “God Bless America” at a Yankees game (so, every game I watch), I think of that line from Gladiator:

      “The time for honoring yourself is over…”

      Because that’s what it is. A bunch of self-congratulatory bullshit. Grrr. [spits nails]

      • brewmn

        Yeah, the 7th innning Patriotic Interlude took this nonsense from mildly annoying to downright obnoxious.

        • trollhattan

          Believe the Air Force is working with Neil Diamond on a treatment of “Sweet F-35” suitable for ballparks. Royalties a sticking point.

      • Bitter Scribe

        If the song makes you mad by itself, this will give you apoplexy.

        (I’ve posted that link here before, but I can’t help repeating myself.)

        • Rob in CT

          I remember that incident. Fucked up to hell and gone. But soooo Steinbrenner.

          • postmodulator

            Fucked up to hell and gone. But soooo Steinbrenner.

            Department of Redundancy Department.

      • SP

        I think at some point one of the sports stat sites did an analysis and found that the Yankees obtained an advantage from playing GBA every seventh inning stretch. Usually a new pitcher would be coming in for the bottom of the 7th but then they’d have to stand there for a few minutes cooling down because they weren’t allowed to disrespect the song. As a result opposing pitchers performed statistically significantly worse when pitching in the 7th at Yankee Stadium.

      • Captain_Subtext

        So, in other words, they were successful in getting people to conflate the NFL with the fake patriotism of the military. Confusing highly trained and very well compensated athletes with volunteer soldiers is not something I ordinarily do.

        I associate the whole hagiography of the military with dying empire. Clearly, the rubes are easy to control; easier than the athletes it would seem.

        The constant advertising of the armed forces during football games is also annoying…

      • efgoldman

        Whenever they play “God Bless America”…

        …at any baseball game on TV, I mute it.
        The mute button is one of the great inventions of the last century.

        ETA: I also never turn the game on until I’m sure the pregame is over.

    • advocatethis

      Gosh, how I hate that song. It doesn’t even make sense to me, at any level. Why should god uniquely bless America? If not uniquely, but as a universal blessing, why single out America in song? Hasn’t America already received enough blessings (which it has squandered)?

      • ThrottleJockey

        Musically I don’t really like the song, but why wouldn’t you want America to be blessed? Who doesn’t like blessings???

        • Dilan Esper

          The song is actually good. Irving Berlin was a great songwriter. And it has it’s appropriate uses (like before a Philadelphia Flyers playoff game).

          It’s the REASON they are playing the song at baseball games that makes it so bad.

          • Four Krustys

            I fucking hate the song, personally. Did you know he nicked the melody from an anti-semitic novelty record called “When Mose with His Nose Leads the Band”? Has to be one of the most quintessentially American things ever.

            The Mariners play “Louie, Louie” for the 7th inning stretch. Makes me proud every time.

            • sparks

              Well, he did have to have a shifter on his piano because he could play only in one key, so what’s swiping part of a song? It’s not like he was a musician or anything.

              Just a bit more abuse of Berlin to get on Dilan’s nerves.

          • Marek

            It’s a terrible song, even if Berlin was a great songwriter. They can’t all be gems.

            • Dilan Esper

              Maybe I’m biased, because I loved everything about the Broad Street Bullies growing up. But I don’t have any problem when the Philadelphia Flyers break this out:

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pZ1brENIjw

              She was great and really sold the song.

              They are the only professional sports team that should use it, however.

              • Marek

                Fair enough.

              • PSP

                As a Masshole, I firmly believe that capital punishment is cruel and unusual. It should be reserved solely for playing that song before a hockey game and for driving the speed limit in the left lane.

        • Rob in CT

          I hear a subtext of God Bless AMERICA [not those other guys over there, the evildoers]. That may or may not have been the intent of the songwriter, but to me that’s what all too many of my fellow Americans are enthusiastically applauding.

          • advocatethis

            Yeah, that’s the song’s implication to me. It fits with our notions of American exceptionalism.

            • Captain_Subtext

              The propaganda has to be relentless or people might start not to believe it any more. Also, if we are not exceptional, then how do we justify “exporting freedom” to the rest of the world?

            • Colleen

              I actually think the lyrics as written are complete opposite- the song is asking for God to lead a lost and struggling nation through the dark night with divine guidance.
              But just like how Reagan completely twisted the original point about ‘Shining city on a hill” from Winthrop (from Matthew) he took a message about the burden and requirement to be better into a self-aggrandizing shortcut to mindless awesome! We are exceptional so everything we do is exceptional. Excpetional even if we invade the wrong country (sure Iraq did something), Exceptional when we torture (they’d do the same), exceptional when we pay 48 million for a gas station in Iraq but simultaneously cut food stamps in the US. No thinking needed, we are the shining city on the hill!

          • CP

            I hear a subtext of God Bless AMERICA [not those other guys over there, the evildoers]. That may or may not have been the intent of the songwriter, but to me that’s what all too many of my fellow Americans are enthusiastically applauding.

            I don’t even hear that – if by “the evildoers” you mean “people in other countries.” To me, the subtext isn’t aimed at foreigners, it’s aimed at other Americans. Everyone who doesn’t mindlessly goose-step in sync with the crowd.

            My grandmother (no, not the American one) lived in New York City for a few years in the 1950s and sent her kids to American schools. Once, she came to some school event or other and stood with her hand over her heart along with everyone else for the Pledge of Allegiance, figuring that it was only proper and respectful to do so. Except, after the event, she was approached by the mother of another child who was scandalized that although she’d stood with her hand over her heart, she hadn’t said the pledge. Granted, she wasn’t American, but the other mom didn’t know that at the time – she was just eagerly looking to scold another Treasonous Purveyor Of Un-American Activities.

            I’ve always thought that little incident is to a large extent what all the ridiculously omnipresent “patriotic” ritual is all about. Giving America’s gossiping busybodies as many opportunities as possible to act as self-appointed political commissars, and throw as many loyalty tests as you can towards the general population so that the commissars can take detailed notes on who is and isn’t Behaving Properly.

        • JMP

          How about those of us who are atheists, and find the idea of being compelled to ask an imaginary being to give magical aid to America really offensive?

          And yeah, I don’t like blessings, for that very reason.

          • Hogan

            Maybe we could work up something like Roger Zelazny’s Possibly Proper Death Litany:

            Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

          • Rob in CT

            Yeah, well, my atheism absolutely played a role in my WTFsithisbullshit? response to the Pledge (of course, the original didn’t have the Godbothering bit) and to God Bless America, but with GBA, it’s not really the religiosity that bugs me. It’s the WE get God’s blessing bit. For thousands of years people have been butchering each other, claiming God was on their side. Fuck that noise.

        • tsam

          Who doesn’t like blessings???

          People with Hay Fever.

          CHECKMATE

      • yet_another_lawyer

        And when I’m in England, why is God *only* saving the Queen? Shouldn’t he save everybody? Come on!

        • Malaclypse

          Be glad. It’s Yog Sothoth, and he’s saving her for later.

        • JohnT

          It always makes sense to me – an 89 year old lady might need saving more than me!

        • Rob in CT

          No, no, no. It should be God attack the Queen! Send big dogs after her that bite her bum.

          And then the Queen could fight off the crazy dog with a handbag with a brick in it! And everyone would say “well, fair play to the Queen!” That would be much better.

          • You have an interesting interior life.

            • Rob in CT

              No, but Eddie Izzard does.

              That was lifted (from memory, so it’s slightly off) from Dress to Kill

              • Ah. I’ve liked his stuff when I’ve seen it, but that has not been often.

      • efgoldman

        Gosh, how I hate that song.

        The song itself is harmless enough. I don’t mind it once in a great while. But every damned game? No way in hell.

    • ThrottleJockey

      If you don’t stand up for God Bless America, and you think the DOD is vile…yeah, you might get called names…

      of course I’d say the same thing about those nuts who think the EPA or FDA are vile too…

      • Malaclypse

        If you don’t stand up for God Bless America, and you think the DOD is vile…yeah, you might get called names…

        If a few roughed-up or dead Quakers were good enough for our Founding Fathers, they should be good enough for us! Dissent is wrong, and should be suppressed.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Oh yes, obviously, if you don’t stand up at football games for the weekly “Support Our Men and Women of the EPA!” portion of the program, you are absolutely vile.

        And no one fails to appreciate FDA t-shirt giveaway day at the ol’ football game, amirite?

      • Rob in CT

        I respond poorly to blatant propoganda, so sue me.

        • Manju

          …sez the guy with an arbitration clause.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I see what you did there…. +100 for subtlety

  • divadab

    Not surprising – this is one State-sanctioned corporate cartel scratching the back, and being handsomely paid for it, of the largest part of the State – the military. Same as the media cartel gets access in return for acting as a propaganda outlet for the military State.

    This is common garden Mussolini-style fascism, where the interests of the State and the corporate cartels are in complete harmony and maintained with the grease of massive amounts of our money.

    Bread and circuses – the principles of imperial machine maintenance have not changed in millenia – only the technology.

    • Hogan

      And not so much with the bread these days.

      • divadab

        Lots of GMO bread and torture factory butter and eggs but not much in the way of fair employment or affordable places to live. The flippimg country’s being hollowed out by a traitorous ruling class that has no sense of obligation other than to itself.

    • ThrottleJockey

      You think this is fascism?

      Do you get out much?

      • Malaclypse

        You are obviously correct – it is right and good that we completely ignore the role of spectacle under fascism. Nothing to see here, we should move along…

        • ThrottleJockey

          You’re right. We’re totally fascists. I was just kidding before. Just being sarcastic me.

          • divadab

            No you’re right – the teevee tells me we live in the freest of countries, the best of the best, we are held in awe and love by all we rule except for the “evildoers who would kill americans” ™ whom we bomb and bomb and win win win like the winners we are.

            USA!USA!USA!USA!USA!USA!

            God bless the President except the one we hate because he’s a mooslim marxist non-citizen.

      • Rob in CT

        It’s fascistic, IMO.

        So is the Pledge of Allegiance.

        That we have some trappings of fascism doesn’t mean we live in a fascist police state. Those trappings, however, are worrisome.

        • ThrottleJockey

          There’s a huge difference, Rob, between tokens of patriotism and tokens of fascism. I think our post 9/11 America is far too jingoistic and too pro-military but its hardly fascist.

          • Rob in CT

            We’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think it’s a difference of degree not kind, and the degree ain’t that large.

            Fascistic, quasi-fascistic, militaristic jingoism… we can debate the precise terminology.

            I, for one, have hated the PoA since I was a little kid. It helped that my Brit father was flabbergasted by it (though I believe this came up *after* I’d voiced my own displeasure). To him, it was no-doubt-about-it fascistic. Reminded him of some things he encounted as a young man in the 30s & 40s.

            • Captain_Subtext

              I have to concur with Rob. The trappings of fascism have been there all along. What was the Sinclair Lewis quote? “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” The confluence of the money boys and the Right-Wing Social conservatives were just the pieces that we needed to make this happen. W just happened to have the right qualifications to pull it off.

              If course, I have seen a sig-line that read: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in excess body fat and carrying a misspelled sign.” Gotta have some humor in there…

              • ThrottleJockey

                This is a little, ahem, ahistorical. High school kids during Vietnam not only got kicked out of school for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance, they got kicked out of school for not supporting the War. And, by the way, shouldn’t you be calling 1942 USA fascist since that’s when the Pledge was adopted?

                • RonC

                  Written in around 1900 and adopted by the Congress in 1942 and the Supreme Court said you didn’t have to say it in 1943.

                • Hogan

                  And, by the way, shouldn’t you be calling 1942 USA fascist since that’s when the Pledge was adopted?

                  You mean when we had the War Production Board and wage and price controls? When we had government propaganda posters up all over the place? When we were interning Japanese-American citizens?

            • ThrottleJockey

              One thing that I worry about, and I think others here should at least think about if not worry about, is how the liberal message come across to the broader public. I know you love the country as much as anyone else, but sometimes we come across like we don’t. I respect atheists who oppose the “under God” language and so refuse to stand up, but opposing the entire idea of the pledge strikes me as a little odd. I get the fact that conservatives are hypocritical in how and when they play the patriotism card, but for a lot of people in the middle patriotism is a real thing. Appearing to be ashamed of the US, or to dislike the country makes us seem a little out in left field and tends to undermine our message. Just a couple of thoughts…

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                well, sure, but the idea that kids need to start the day, or local city council needs to start meetings, with a loyalty oath strikes me as profoundly anti-democratic and anti-American. It should be enough to walk the walk so to speak without making a show of it for- what purpose really?

                • I was going to post the Yang chief reciting the pledge of allegiance, but apparently the Trekkies have failed to post that one to youtube.

              • witlesschum

                Well, I’d say that the asking or requiring people publicly to take part in these kinds of things comes off as just fake and insincere. It’s like we as a country are loudly insisting on a thing, again and again, and we know that the people who do that are very often bullshitting. All those scenes on The Office where Steve Carrell demanded that everyone have fun?

                Indeed patriotism is a real thing to people, but like most things, people in a free country should mostly be left to practice it, or not, how they choose and how they feel is best. Of the times I’ve been moved by someone’s love of country or the idea of it, exactly zero of them have come during these sort of rote government or professional sports team-enforced displays.

                And I can only speak for myself, but I was born in Hancock, Michigan. That means anyone can eat shit if they don’t like what I have to say or think or do. That’s my patriotism and I say the NFL’s is worth its weight in toejam.

                (Yes, alcohol aided the composition of this post.)

              • Malaclypse

                I respect atheists who oppose the “under God” language and so refuse to stand up, but opposing the entire idea of the pledge strikes me as a little odd.

                Serious question – have you ever spent time outside of the US? Because if you asked someone from (particularly) Eastern Europe what they thought of the pledge, you might find out why so many of us oppose it.

                • Rob in CT

                  Basically anybody not American, I’d wager. Like I said before, my British father thought it was appalling.

                • It’s always fun to get a little liquor into my soviet-raised wife and her parents and then start on this topic.

              • Rob in CT

                We have little kids who have no fucking idea what they’re saying Pledge Allegiance to the Republic. In a group, led by an authority figure…

                This is something that free citizens do? No fucking way. It’s badly off, TJ.

                It’s indoctrination.

                Further, even adults doing it… big groups of people taking a loyalty oath? COME ON. You don’t see the fascism there?

                Please.

          • JohnT

            Not an American, but pretty well-travelled and I’m with Rob – I have always found the pledge quasi-fascist – especially the bit where kids are made to recite it in unison so often – to me that is just creepy, and I have not seen similar things in other free countries. (the PRC used to have stuff like that iirc but not sure even they bother nowadays)

            • CP

              “Creepily North Koreanish” is the phrase I tend towards. Children reciting loyalty oaths ten years before most of them have the foggiest idea what they’re saying? Yeah, that’s deeply fucked up.

              • JohnT

                That was the obvious country I was thinking of, yeah. In my two home countries, there’s only two occasions you have to take something like the pledge – when you become a naturalised citizen and if you join the armed forces. And even then you only have to do it once because they believe you the first time.

                • Lurker

                  Yep. One thing I really can’t fathom is the re-enlistment oath. If you are letting a guy re-enlist, you probably consider that his or her service has been adequate. So, why require a renewal of oath? That oath has been already once given. If it does not bind the oath-taker to the grave and beyond, then you should not let them enlist at all, as you already mistrust them.

        • wengler

          Nationalism and militarism are two components of fascism. Xenophobia and rightwing paramilitaries are the missing components.

          • DrS

            Fortunately we are famously welcoming to others and guns are completely absent from our populace.

    • Manju

      I’m going to defer judgement until Naomi Wolf weighs in.

  • brugroffil

    Deadspin had a story back in September about how they’re sometimes just full-on political propaganda events:

    http://deadspin.com/surprise-military-reunions-at-nfl-games-reach-peak-bull-1727940877?trending_test_a&utm_expid=66866090-62._DVNDEZYQh2S4K00ZSnKcw.1&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

    These headlines accurately capture what’s imparted in the story-like objects over which they run, which tell the tale of the St. Louis Rams surprising a cheerleader with the return of her military husband from service overseas. As far as we can tell, every element of it is true. It could also be described rather differently.

    Candace Ruocco Valentine is in fact a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams. She made her debut this past weekend, at the very game at which her husband surprised her with his return from abroad. She’s several other things as well: a first lieutenant in the USMC (without wanting to scrutinize the gender politics of something that involves Rampage the Ram too closely, one might wonder why no headline writer went with “Husband Surprises Military Wife At Her Job”); a former White House intern who worked under Laura Bush; and a member of the Ruocco family, which is heavily involved in Illinois Republican politics.

    August Valentine, meanwhile, is in fact a first lieutenant in the USMC. He made his surprise return to St. Louis, though, not from, say, the anxiety and peril of a security mission in Anbar province, but from a posting in South Korea, where combat operations wound down 62 years ago. He also happens to be not some anonymous leatherneck but a member of the galactically wealthy Busch family, which built the Anheuser-Busch corporation and, years after the sale of the business, retains incredible power in St. Louis. Valentine’s maternal grandfather, Gussie Busch, is generally credited with building the family business into the biggest brewery in the world; the Rams at one point played in a stadium named for the family.

    For perspective, the happy couple had their wedding ceremony at the Vatican. That isn’t to say that rich people don’t deserve nice moments, or that their Rampage-approved emotions are less authentic than anyone else’s, but, along with other basic information about the two, it does slightly complicate the story of a photogenic NFL cheerleader being surprised by her photogenic military husband’s surprise return from service at the football game. So does one of Candace Ruocco Valentine’s Facebook posts, in which she lauds not only the Rams for their efforts to make this reunion happen, but “the mom-with-a-plan: Mrs. Katherine Ruocco.”

    • witlesschum

      Pretty sure Loomis linked that one.

  • Bruce Vail

    I actually witnessed one of these spectacles, although I am not much of a football fan and have only been to 2 or 3 professional games in my life.

    A couple of years back my brother invited me to attend a Jets game. They had one of those giant flag displays, which was paired with an appearance by retired President George W. Bush. I wonder if Bush received an honorarium….

  • Richard Hershberger

    I find to my dismay that I have been insufficiently cynical all my life. I always dismissed the professional-sports conspicuous displays of patriotism as tacky and self-serving marketing. It never occurred to me that the organizations had to be bought off. Or perhaps they have worked the system to double dip: they get their payoff, and also get their tacky self-serving marketing. Somebody deserves a hefty bonus for coming up with that!

    • Lost Left Coaster

      I had a similar reaction to the story. I always assumed that the NFL and other sports leagues were just using “ra-ra!” patriotism for their own marketing ends. And it turns out that they are…but they’re getting paid for it too. And of course they are.

      • Colleen

        I always assumed they wrote off the time as a tax donation to the USO, but taking actual cash- those are some unpatriotic slobs.

    • witlesschum

      I’m not sure the NFL had to be bought off. It’s probably just the nature of Pentagon contracting that they just showed up and started buying the NFL off.

  • kmannkoopa

    Why are discussing the fact that in reality, it isn’t the Department of Defense doing this, but is in fact the National Guard – which are the State Militias and under State control (except when mobilized for war).

    This is actually a case of the misuse block grants — DoD advertising dollars are given to the various states for recruiting for each states’ Militias, and the states rather than the Feds are spending the money in this way.

    I’m not even sure that this is federal spending, but is instead state tax dollars being spent on this advertising.

    I think about this every time a see a Bills press conference with New York National Guard on the standard background.

    • kmannkoopa
    • Not sure about the Army Guard, but roughly 70% of Air National Guard funding is federal.

      This came about after Vietnam when it was determined that the National Guard’s equipment was so outdated they would be essentially useless if ever mobilized.

      It was also to make it difficult to go to war without activating the National Guard, as opposed to Vietnam where the Guard was never activated.

      All of that federal funding comes with federal strings attached.

      Today the National Guard is much closer to being a military reserve than a state militia.

      • kmannkoopa

        Every point you make is 100% correct, however the State National Guards have more or less full discretion in recruiting — that’s why there is a separate National Guard Race Car, and recruiting materials are completely unrelated to Army or Air Force recruiting materials.

        This is why I am making the point that it is a block grant issue.

    • Naomi Wolf

      No one has yet to prove that Obama didn’t order the DoD to funnel the propaganda thru the National Guards. Wake up Sheeple!

    • witlesschum

      If it was state money, why would the Pentagon be handling it for Senator Flake to demand a look at it?

      And you really can’t conflate the Jets stuff, for instance, with advertising signs or race cars I don’t think.

      The agreement includes the Hometown Hero segment, in which the Jets feature a soldier or two on the big screen, announce their names and ask the crowd to thank them for their service. The soldiers and three friends also get seats in the Coaches Club for the game.

      […]

      Aside from the Hometown Heroes segment, the agreements also included advertising and marketing services, including a kickoff video message from the Guard, digital advertising on stadium screens, online advertising and meeting space for a meeting or events.

      Also, soldiers attended the annual kickoff lunch in New York City to meet and take pictures with the players for promotional use, and the Jets allowed soldiers to participate in a charity event in which coaches and players build or rebuild a playground or park.

      The Jets also provided game access passes.

      I notice the Lions got nothing. I don’t know how to feel about that.

  • Gwen

    Hey now, the Department of Defense isn’t *that* bad.

    • Gwen

      ALso, from the DoD perspective, these are sort of quasi-legitimate recruiting / morale-boosting spends.

      Screw the NFL though for profiting off of it.

      • efgoldman

        Screw the NFL though for profiting off of it.

        What’s the difference (besides creating the impression that it’s altruism) between buying an on-field appearance and buying commercial time during the game?
        Not that I like that any better.

    • ThrottleJockey

      I don’t think the DOD is any worse, nor any different, that the EPA, or IRS, or FDA, or OSHA…ok, well OSHA is chronically underfunded and that’s not true of the DOD, but still…

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Okay, give me a call when the EPA’s $2.4 billion bloated superblimp program goes off the tether.

        Seriously, all federal agencies have instances of waste and malfeasance…but you can’t beat the DoD for super corrupt hyperspending. They have turned it into an art form.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Well, sure, its our single biggest agency….If you looked at waste per employee (or some such metric that controlled for agency size) I’m curious what you’d find. Building a $43M gas station that uses liquified natural gas in a country that can’t afford to convert over to LNF is pretty sucking ftupid though.

          • tsam

            I think most of the waste and fraud that comes out of those agencies is a direct result of spending bills that come from the Congress and WH.

            • Colleen

              Based on what?

              Where in Congress or the White Housed did they say to build a 48 M dollar gas station or melting training facilities in Afghanistan?

              What about the player unions? Are players getting a piece of this pork pie They are often on the field or shaking hands with the soldiers at these events.

  • JMP

    Before, I actually had just assumed that the teams did this to burnish their image out of the assumption that sports fans were mostly a bunch of jingoistic yahoos.

  • Ken

    They could do what many other businesses do – on Veterans’ Day, offer free or discounted admissions to veterans.

    (There’s a garage near me that offers oil changes, and every year the line stretches around the block. I assume they make up for it by charging a little more the rest of the year.)

    • malraux

      Oil changes are often done as a loss leader anyway. With the oil change, you can upsell brakes, air filters, wipers, and other high margin items.

  • BGinCHI

    Everyone wins, right???

    No. The Bears almost never win.

    • efgoldman

      No. The Bears almost never win.

      And today the Lions lost big time.
      Who’d ever have thought that the old black and blue division would turn out to be one winner and three high school teams?

  • wengler

    Ah the Metrodome. So many good memories. Also one of few publicly-funded sports venues in history that more than paid for itself.

    • efgoldman

      Also one of few publicly-funded sports venues in history that more than paid for itself.

      Yeah, but they fixed that with the two new places, didn’t they?

  • Bitter Scribe

    I found those honor guards, color guards, flyovers, gigantic flags, etc., annoying enough on their own merit. It’s a football game, not a goddamned military academy graduation.

    Now I find out that my taxes were paying for it all. Wonderful.

    • Lurker

      In fact, it is understandable in a way. You do lack one tradition that most countries have: Public military parades. You don’t have troops marching through cities in festive uniforms, showing off their modern equipment and military traditions. A public parade is a beautiful sight. The US military holds its parades inside garrisons, not on the 5th Avenue.

      For example, the Finnish Defence Forces has two big (ca. 1000 troops) national parades a year, televised nationally, and a number of smaller local parades. For example, my brigade had a tradition of holding the basic training graduation parade of its summer cohort in one of the neighboring towns or villages, every year in a different one. There are few things that rise up the patriotic feeling as much as seeing a brigade’s worth of local youngsters who were civilians only two months earlier swear their service oaths on the local sports field, followed by a big parade.

      Missing this type of tradition, it is quite natural that you need to have some other way to pump up the feeling for the military.

      • Malaclypse

        You don’t have troops marching through cities in festive uniforms, showing off their modern equipment and military traditions.

        Every town in America has a Memorial Day parade. Less equipment, granted, but all the uniforms, plus you get to see up close who among your neighbors sleeps in because they don’t love the troops enough.

        • Lurker

          There is really a big difference between a military parade and a civic event like an American day parade. A real military parade does not have civilian paraders, or, at most, has only civilians from quasi-NGOs controlled by the military. In a US memorial day parade, military detachments are only a small part of a larger civilian event.

          A proper military parade looks a lot different from a memorial day parade. Not necessarily better (in fact, I admire the display of civilian society present in memorial day parades) but definitely more military. If you want to know what I mean, check the British celebrations of Queen’s official birthday.

    • efgoldman

      Now I find out that my taxes were paying for it all. Wonderful.

      Unless you live in very few places (New England being one) your taxes were *already* paying for it all.

  • Dilan Esper

    There’s nothing more phony than professional sports tributes to the military, which primarily exist a) for fans to feel good about how much they love America and b) as recruiting tools for the military.

    Don’t forget c) to sell camouflage-colored jerseys and shirts at huge markups to the fans.

  • LeeEsq

    I’m having a horribly difficult time getting worked up or concerned about this. Military involvement with the entertainment industry isn’t an unknown fat. Hollywood has been cooperating with the military for decades because it makes getting the equipment and sites they need much easier. Government spends tax payer money in the way that leaves practically one side or another disgruntled. The rightists don’t like it when the government spends on health care, we don’t like it when the military spends on hoopla. You can’t have everything you want. All governments encourage patriotism in one way or another. Even the allegedly internationalist Communist countries could get into the patriotism hoopla when they wanted to.

    Millions or even tens of Americans would basically agree with this cheesy and over the top patriotism regardless of whether the military spent on it. It doesn’t seem to effect anything. If conservatives want some or even a lot of tax payer money spent on patriotic hoopla than let them have it.

    I’ll also point out that spending millions of their budget on patriotic hoopla is a lot better than many of the other things the military could spend their money on.

    • I think that’s why this bothers me so much.

      To me, this is the kind of stuff I would have expected from the Communist countries.

      Speaking as a 21-year military officer, I find all this deification of the military to be more than a little creepy.

      • LeeEsq

        Its creepy but millions of Americans want it and I can’t think of a good or legal reason why they can’t have it. Its their country to.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          At the very least, this partnership between the military and the NFL etc to produce patriotic spectacles needs to be wholly transparent.

        • FDChief

          The reason is the same reason that, while you can legally eat a wastebasketful of Hostess Twinkies a day, it’s not a good idea to do it.

          Conditioning the citizenry of a nominal democracy (or republic, whatev’…) to venerate their armed forces and reflexively attribute unearned virtues to them is NOT a good idea for said republic OR for the military. For the republic it conditions the citizens to think of those bearing arms in their name as the repository of the national spirit, the Army not as the “school of the nation” but as standing for the nation itself. That’s a hell of a good way to pave the way for the Man on Horseback.

          For the military it’s a bad idea, because the citizens are supposed to be less than credulous about the sorts of things that jingoistic politicians say their military can do. When you think of your troops as The Best EVAH then you tend to credit them with the ability to do things that no armed force can do…like remake southwest Asian tribes with flags into modern Westphalian states.

          So while this may be their country at the moment, encouraging them to worship armed men is encouraging them to consider military rule superior to their own.

      • You didn’t like my burnt offerings?

      • tsam

        WAIT JUST A DAMN MINUTE

        Are you suggesting that you vets would rather have better benefits than slobbery ceremonies at football games? SHENANIGANS.

      • Matt_L

        Militarism is really a civilian disease. Most serving soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are a little more circumspect about the problems and benefits of military life. They have first hand experience with the military as a social institution and bureaucratic entity. Most civilians lack that perspective and tend to think that for every problem there is a military solution.

        Too many politicians and too many voters only experience the military through this photogenic hoopla and TV documentaries. Not enough of them have had to put in their time as privates in a conscript army.

      • And that deification and creepiness ramped up with the all volunteer military. So people who don’t serve, and would never let their children serve, can feel all tingly.

        But what do I know. I’m a Quaker and this stuff at games really annoys me. Thankfully our local AAA baseball team, for which my son and I have season tickets and go a lot, keeps it to a minimum. But his 12-year-old consciousness has Questions about it, ones hard to answer at his level.

      • CP

        Speaking as a lifelong civilian, I find it equally creepy. In no small part because it’s gone hand in hand with the loud and angry devaluation and denigration of virtually every other “working” job out there (see the long list of professions that we’re told again and again are lazy and overpaid and have it too good).

  • Fighting Words

    Dammit Loomis, you have to post something that I really want to respond to when I’m super busy.

    As much I agree with Erik and most of the other commenters here that these conspicuous displays of nationalism at sporting events are tacky and self serving, that watching commercials for the Armed Forces Credit Union every commercial break during football games is annoying, and watching players read the Declaration of Independence before the Super Bowl is downright bizarre, I feel that we are probably in the minority on this issue. There are just so many people who just eat this stuff up. I know more than a few people, in the “liberal Bay Area” no less, who firmly believe that professional sports organizations don’t honor our troops enough (seriously, they expect players, in the post game interviews, to thank the troops).

    Also, I believe that Fox Sports began the whole “God Bless America” in the wake of 9/11. As an agnostic, I firmly believe that Fox Sports chose this song specifically to piss off atheists and liberal leaning folks.

    • Dilan Esper

      I think the Yankees started the God Bless America thing. Fox picked it up (along with Bud Selig), though, and frankly, most teams have dropped it except when Fox is covering the game.

      You are correct that Fox is really nationalistic, though. One of my favorites is that at the All-Star Game every year, they cut away and don’t show “O Canada”, and come back and show “The Star Spangled Banner”. I was wondering what they were going to do if the Blue Jays went to the World Series this year.

      • TribalistMeathead

        That’s weird, NBC definitely doesn’t cut away when they sing O Canada before the Winter Classic.

        • Dilan Esper

          Actually, you can’t get away with that in hockey because O Canada is so associated with the sport (I’m thinking about a Cheers episode where Carla dates a hockey player…).

          Even Fox showed “O Canada” when they broadcast hockey.

          • TribalistMeathead

            Yeah – so heavily associated with the sport, they even sing it at Winter Classics that don’t take place in Canada and don’t have a Canadian team playing.

            • Dilan Esper

              [deleted]

      • keta

        ’92 World Series.

        One of the many reasons the Blue Jays victory was so very sweet.

      • Rob in CT

        Yep, this started with the Yankees (George Steinbrenner himself, IIRC).

        • sparks

          So we have Kate Smith and Steinbrenner to thank for this.

    • Bitter Scribe

      watching commercials for the Armed Forces Credit Union every commercial break during football games is annoying

      As far as commercials for companies leeching off military patriotism goes, nothing can possibly top the sheer gall of USAA. Their logo is of a stylized eagle literally wrapped in a flag. In their commercials, they throw up image after image of military-related themes, often with children in the mix (a little girl saluting under an officer’s cap, that kind of thing), while a stentorian voice-over goes on about people “qualifying” for their insurance through “a tradition of service,” etc.

      As it turns out, the letters stand for “United Services Automobile Association,” and they’re nothing but a run-of-the-mill insurance company whose marketing plan includes targeting veterans. They put disclaimers in their ads saying they have nothing to do with the Defense Department, the VA or any other part of the government, but it’s in a type size and at a speed that Superman couldn’t read on a TV the size of a billboard.

      • Rob in CT

        From what I can tell, they have great rates. Not sure about the claims side, though.

        • kmannkoopa

          USAA isn’t a military scab business like some others (New Day Financial I’m looking at you).

          They used to be basically closed to non-military members, and were for most of their existence a bank for Military Officers. I joined because they offered a 5% unsecured loan for $25,000 (back when 5% was a low rate) As a member I am concerned about them branching out and worried they may be expanded too fast.

          Overall, I find them slightly better than other banks, but in the end they are a bank and insurance company like other any other.

          • tsam

            a bank for Military Officers

            STRIKE 4. YOU’RE OUT

        • Just_Dropping_By

          My wife uses USAA (her father was in the USMC) and she says the service is fantastic.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    The US military and the NFL. What do the two have in common?

    Traumatic brain injury.

  • keta

    Patriotism for Profit.

    Isn’t that the slogan of one of the two political parties in the United States?

  • Vance Maverick

    “Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it seems more appropriate that any organization with a genuine interest in honoring them, and deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer,” the report states.

    This makes no sense. The premise is one from which any conclusion at all can follow (indeed must, if it’s to be adequately patriotic). “Given these sacrifices, surely parking should be free on Fridays.” Or, more to the point, “surely the taxpayer should be happy to support state propaganda worthy of North Korea.”

    • mikeSchilling

      “Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it’s wrong to blow smoke up their asses.”

      I can get behind that.

  • Bitter Scribe

    According to professional grump Bernie Lincicome, some veteran sportswriter (probably him) refused to stand in the press box for “God Bless America” and someone asked him why. His reply: “I do not stand for show tunes.”

  • RonC

    Well it doesn’t seem like a lot when you consider that our military spent $43 million on a gas station.

  • ASV

    I tend to disagree with the idea that these charades are about recruiting, at least directly. Rather, I think they’re about brand maintenance for American militarism. That probably indirectly boosts recruiting, but its first-order concern is to keep people thinking the military and specifically military action (from whence these honored heroes come) is awesome.

    • Rob in CT

      Team USA. (USA! USA! USA!)

    • Epsilon

      Yep. This exactly. The fact that so much money is changing hands to accomplish this laudable goal of desensitizing our population to the horrors of military action is just another in a laundry list of reasons why our future seems so bleak.

      Christ, what a bunch of assholes.

  • n00chness

    I am concerned that there are not enough conflicts for our military to get involved in.

    Specifically, I am afraid that without sufficient conflicts, will not be able to properly give “Salutes to Service” at sporting events.

    We may need to start and/or provoke additional conflicts to avoid this risk.

    • creature

      Gentleman, it appears we have a conflict gap! We need another conflict! I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, a few thousand casualties, tops, but we’d have those sports fans right where we wanted them! In a recruiters’ office!

  • greatdoubt

    Military-Industrial-Spectacle Complex

    Immoral
    Creepy
    In bad taste

    Some of the posts above brought to mind Dylan’s Sweetheart Like You:

    They say that patriotism is the last refuge
    To which a scoundrel clings
    Steal a little and they throw you in jail
    Steal a lot and they make you king

  • witlesschum

    Speaking of cynical uses of patriotism, I’m still irked to remember when M. Peter McPherson, the president of Michigan State, figured out how to appear in front of a crowd of more than a dozen students or so without being booed through the use of soldiers just back from Afghanistan as human shields. Not long after, he was called upon to help reconstruct the Iraqi economy and fucked off.