The blurring and blending of sports and war
I never miss a Super Bowl, and this year’s game was close until its somewhat anti-climatic end. Of course, there’s always a winning team and a losing one, but perhaps the biggest winner remains the military-industrial complex, which is always featured and saluted in these games.
How so? The obligatory military flyover featured Navy jets flown by female pilots. Progress! The obligatory shot of an overseas (or on-the-sea) military unit featured the colorful crew of the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier. A Marine Corps color guard marched out the American flag along with the flags of each of the armed services. The announcers made a point to “honor those who fight for our nation.” All this is standard stuff, a repetitive ritual that turns the Super Bowl into Veterans Day, if only for a few minutes.
What was new about this year’s ceremony was the celebration of Pat Tillman’s life, the sole NFL player (and I think the only athlete in any of America’s “major” sports leagues) to give up his career and hefty paycheck to enlist in the U.S. military after 9/11. Yes, Pat Tillman deserves praise for that, and since the game was played in Arizona and Tillman had been with the Arizona Cardinals, honoring him was understandable. Yet, the network (in this case, Fox) quickly said he’d “lost his life in the line of duty.” No further details.
Tillman was killed in a friendly-fire incident that was covered up by the U.S. military in a conspiracy that went at least as high as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The military told the Tillman family Pat had died heroically in combat with the enemy in Afghanistan and awarded him the Silver Star. The Tillman family eventually learned the truth, that Pat had been killed by accident in the chaos of war, a casualty of FUBAR, because troops in combat, hyped on adrenaline, confused and under stress, make deadly mistakes far more often than we’d like to admit.
What makes me sad more than angry is how Tillman’s legacy is being used to sell the military as a good and noble place, a path toward self-actualization. Tillman, a thoughtful person, a soldier who questioned the war he was in, is now being reduced to a simple heroic archetype, just another recruitment statue for the U.S. military.
His life was more meaningful than that. His lesson more profound. His was a cautionary tale of a life of service and sacrifice in a war gone wrong; his death and the military’s lies about the same are grim lessons about the waste of war, its lack of nobility, the sheer awfulness of it all.
Tillman’s statue captures the essence of a man full of life. His death by friendly fire in a misbegotten war, made worse by the lies told to the Tillman family by the U.S. military, reminds us that the essence of war is death.
That was obviously not the intended message of this Super Bowl tribute. That message was of military service as transformative, as full of grace, and I’m sorry but I just can’t stomach it because of what happened to Pat Tillman and how he was killed not only by friendly fire on the ground but how his life was then mutilated by those at the highest levels of the U.S. military.
16 thoughts on “The Militarized Super Bowl”
Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .
“Bah! Humbug!” (or, why I didn’t waste a moment of my life viewing yet another hyper-militarized Stupor Bawl)
Thank You for Your Servility
The Sacred Symbol Soldier serves to shield
The fans from what transpires upon the field
Of battle, far away in distant lands,
While “patriots” swill beer up in the stands,
And cheer the gladiators down below
Who (for a dollar) put on quite a show
To market war as just another game
Makes money for the ones who have no shame.
To move the mob, they wave the bloody shirt
Concealing blood and bowels in the dirt.
Their crimes they seek to hide behind the troops:
Those tools of conquerors and statesmen’s dupes
The Taboo Troop shows up at sports events
To bask in brief applause; no malcontents:
Disgusted, wounded, angry, are allowed
To give the middle finger to the crowd
And so the wars, somewhere, go on and on
Sold by the slave; promoted by the pawn
Michael Murry,”The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2017
LikeLiked by 1 person
“By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” — U.S. President George H. W. Bush (1991)
Kicking the Memory Syndrome
Kicking the Memory Syndrome
“Once and for all” every year
Soon we’ll be kicking it daily
As we advance to the rear.
Kicking and sticking and licking
Vigorous, vicious, and vain
Virtual “war” on a flatscreen
Digital aliens slain
Back to life soon after “dying”
Spock and Kirk replay their parts
Black holes and alternate timelines
Rebooted, Star Trek then “starts”
Episode twelve, season twenty
Plot lines unravel and rot
“Final,” at least for the present.
Next year, who knows? Maybe not.
Fighting on some far horizon,
Always our armies will “win”
“Victory” product consumption:
Cigarettes, mansions, and gin
Fed on Orwellian jargon
Straight from Nineteen Eighty Four
Duckspeaking, Crimestop, and Blackwhite
Doublethink peace equals “war”
Let us look into the future
Yesterday doesn’t exist
History starts with tomorrow
That’s why our “war” will persist.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2017
LikeLiked by 1 person
here we are, all the way across the planet on mindoro island in the philippines, and my feckless ‘stupor-bawl’-crazed husband was STILL able to log onto his device in order to gain access to that ludicrous brawl and the lionization of its consociate murder machine, the MIC. to applaud and laud such malodourous donkey dung contaminates the brain w/ images worse than the savage imagery of the roman coliseum’s gladiator battles.
magnificent poesy, michael murray. ‘stupor bawl’ indeed!
LikeLiked by 1 person
“The United States invaded Iraq for three reasons: Oil, Israel, and Domestic Political Advantage: — Daniel Ellsberg
“The scale of the catastrophe in Iraq is so extreme that it can barely be reported.” — Noam Chomski, Failed States
Thanks for Nothing
Benevolent invader of my land
How can I thank you for the helping hand?
Why, had you not come here with awe and shock,
Reducing my poor home to piles of rock,
I might have raised my children safe and sound,
But, thanks to you, I’ve laid them in the ground.
A wife I had, once too, but now no more.
She died one day while driving to the store.
Some nervous mercenaries that you hired
Screamed something at her once, then aimed and fired.
The bullet-riddled windshield told the tale:
That “freed” of life, our women need no veil.
Your generals have come so many times,
Yet never have to answer for their crimes.
Instead, promotion weighs them down with stars
But never, like enlisted men, the scars
Resulting from the bungling and sheer waste
Of thinking last but shooting first in haste.
On nine-eleven, two-thousand-and-one
You got a taste of what you’ve often done
To countries that had never caused you harm
Yet still, too late, you sounded the alarm
And whipped yourself into a lather thick
So you could hurt yourself with your own stick.
Three thousand on that fateful day you lost.
Six thousand more you’ve added to the cost
Since then, which only proves that there or here
You act the same: in folly, rage, and fear.
In time, you’ll go back home to where you’re from,
To fight among yourselves, the deaf and dumb.
Too bad for all the carnage that you’ve caused
Who never thought or for a minute paused
Before afflicting us with your disease:
A plague of bankrupt bullies, fascist fleas,
Who, both hands outward stretched to beg a loan,
Continue “helping” us to shrink and groan.
You talk to pat yourselves upon the back.
Your actions only scream of what you lack:
The insight and intelligence to see
How much you’ve harmed yourself as well as me.
But just the same I’ll thank you to go home
Before you earn the fate that toppled Rome.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2009
Take comfort, Bill, in knowing that Your sadness and outrage is felt by many others; and they are saying so… :
NFL CALLED OUT FOR ‘WHITEWASHING’ PAT TILLMAN’S DEATH by Dan Mennella, Audacy Sports 021323
Football fans who tuned into pregame coverage of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday witnessed an extravagant display of patriotism and militarism.
Among the festivities was the presentation of a handful of scholarship recipients from the Pat Tillman Foundation.
The foundation’s namesake, of course, is the former Arizona Cardinals defensive back who famously left the NFL to enlist in the US Army in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was later killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.
MILITARY OFFICIALS AND THE NFL HAVE LONG TOUTED TILLMAN AS THE FACE OF HEROISM AND BRAVERY, BUT THEY HAVE BEEN LESS THAN FORTHCOMING ABOUT THE SPECIFICS OF HIS SERVICE AND DEATH.
TILLMAN WAS SHOT THREE TIMES IN THE HEAD AT CLOSE RANGE, WHICH RAISES SERIOUS QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED. TILLMAN’S OWN FAMILY HAS LONG EXPRESSED DOUBTS THAT HIS DEATH WAS MERELY ACCIDENTAL, AND HAS PRESSED OFFICIALS FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY.
Tillman was also reported to have grown disillusioned with the US’ military adventures in the Middle East, and may have been preparing to come out publicly against the war in Iraq once his service was over.
ALL OF THIS WAS OMITTED ON SUNDAY, HOWEVER. THE TRIBUTE OBLIQUELY MENTIONED THAT TILLMAN WAS “KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY.”
The dubious presentation was called out by many fans and journalists. At Defector, Tom Ley wrote a scathing takedown in which he argued that “The NFL Still Isn’t Done Exploiting Pat Tillman’s Death.”
Others called it a “whitewashing,” while some tried to provide additional context to set the record straight… .
Continued at https://www.audacy.com/national/sports/nfl-called-out-for-whitewashing-pat-tillmans-death [EMPHASES added.]
And there are others… :
“TELL THE REAL STORY”: SUPER BOWL SLAMMED FOR “HIJACKING THE PAT TILLMAN STORY” by Brett Wilkins, Salon 021323
Advocates of peace, truth, and basic human decency on Sunday excoriated the National Football League’s “whitewashing” of former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan by so-called “friendly fire” and the military’s subsequent cover-up—critical details omitted from a glowingly patriotic Super Bowl salute.
As a group of four Pat Tillman Foundation scholars chosen as honorary coin-toss captains at Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona were introduced via a video segment narrated by actor Kevin Costner, viewers were told how Tillman “gave up his NFL career to join the Army Rangers and ultimately lost his life in the line of duty.”
The video did not say how Tillman died, what he thought about the Iraq war, or how the military lied to his family and the nation about his death. This outraged many viewers.
“OBVIOUSLY THE ARMY KILLING PAT TILLMAN AND COVERING IT UP AFTERWARDS IS THE WORST THING THE U.S. MILITARY DID TO HIM, BUT THE YEARS THEY’VE SPENT ROLLING OUT HIS PORTRAIT BACKED BY SOME INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC AS A RECRUITING TOOL IS A SURPRISINGLY CLOSE SECOND,” tweeted progressive writer Jay Willis.
“PAT TILLMAN CALLED THE IRAQ INVASION AND OCCUPATION ‘FUCKING ILLEGAL’ AND WAS KILLED BY FRIENDLY FIRE IN AN INCIDENT THE MILITARY COVERED UP AND TRIED TO HIDE FROM HIS FAMILY,” tweeted Washington Post investigative reporter Evan Hill.
“I’m writing a book for FIRST GRADERS on Pat Tillman that contains more truth about his life and death than the NFL just provided at the Super Bowl,” wrote author Andrew Maraniss.
“ANOTHER YEAR OF HIJACKING THE PAT TILLMAN STORY AND NOT TELLING THAT HE HATED THE IRAQ WAR AND WAS KILLED BY THE MILITARY,” said one Twitter user.
“TELL THE REAL STORY OF PAT TILLMAN OR GET OFF THE SCREEN,” fumed yet another.
Tillman, 25 years old at the time, turned down a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army in May 2002 after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. He expected to be deployed to Afghanistan. Instead, he was sent to invade Iraq—a country that had no ties to 9/11. Tillman quickly came to deplore the “fucking illegal” war, and even made “loose plans” to meet with anti-war intellectual Noam Chomsky, according to The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux.
As Tillman’s brother Kevin sardonically wrote: “SOMEHOW WE WERE SENT TO INVADE A NATION BECAUSE IT WAS A DIRECT THREAT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, OR TO THE WORLD, OR HARBORED TERRORISTS, OR WAS INVOLVED IN THE SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS, OR RECEIVED WEAPONS-GRADE URANIUM FROM NIGER, OR HAD MOBILE WEAPONS LABS, OR WMD, OR HAD A NEED TO BE LIBERATED, OR WE NEEDED TO ESTABLISH A DEMOCRACY, OR STOP AN INSURGENCY, OR STOP A CIVIL WAR WE CREATED THAT CAN’T BE CALLED A CIVIL WAR EVEN THOUGH IT IS. SOMETHING LIKE THAT.”
Pat and Kevin were sent to Afghanistan on April 8, 2004. Stationed at a forward operating base in Khost province, Pat was killed on April 22, 2004 by what the army said was “enemy fire” during a firefight.
However, the army knew in the days immediately following Tillman’s death that he had been shot three times in the head from less than 30 feet away by so-called “friendly fire,” and that U.S. troops had burned his uniform and body armor in a bid to conceal their fatal error.
“THE DECEPTION SURROUNDING THIS CASE WAS AN INSULT TO THE FAMILY, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, ITS PRIMARY PURPOSE WAS TO DECEIVE A WHOLE NATION,” Kevin Tillman testified before Congress in 2007. “WE SAY THESE THINGS WITH DISAPPOINTMENT AND SADNESS FOR OUR COUNTRY. ONCE AGAIN, WE HAVE BEEN USED AS PROPS IN A PENTAGON PUBLIC RELATIONS EXERCISE.”
Tillman’s father, Patrick Tillman Sr., told the Washington Post in 2005 that after his son was killed, “all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. THEY PURPOSELY INTERFERED WITH THE INVESTIGATION, THEY COVERED IT UP.”
“I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out,” he contended. “They blew up their poster boy.”
The following year, TILLMAN’S MOTHER MARY WAS INTERVIEWED BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED AND BLAMED U.S. MILITARY AND GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ALL THE WAY UP TO THEN-DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD FOR COVERING UP HER SON’S KILLING.
“THEY ATTACHED THEMSELVES TO HIS VIRTUE AND THEN THREW HIM UNDER THE BUS,” SHE SAID. “THEY HAD NO REGARD FOR HIM AS A PERSON. HE’D HATE TO BE USED FOR A LIE. I DON’T CARE IF THEY PUT A BULLET THROUGH MY HEAD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. I’M NOT STOPPING.”
https://www.salon.com/2023/02/13/tell-the-real-story-super-bowl-slammed-for-hijacking-the-pat-tillman-story_partner/ [EMPHASES added.]
It would be very interesting to get Pat Tillman’s Mom’s and Dad’s reactions and responses to all this, eh?
Thanks for all these, Jeff.
Yes, I’m pleased I wasn’t the only one who had a visceral reaction to this travesty.
You’re very welcome, Bill. There were evidently quite a few reactions from the gut, the heart, and the mind.
Personally, since I didn’t watch the martial festivities, I can only go by what I have read. Still, I find it curious — if not misogynistic by default — that Private Jessica Lynch didn’t get at least equal billing in the “heroic veteran as recruiting tool” department. For those who may have forgotten (or never heard of) the unlucky private who enlisted in the Army “to get out of Palestine, West Virginia, where I couldn’t even get a job at Wal Mart,” see The truth about Jessica, by John Kampfner, The Guardian (May 15, 2003). The article begins:
Jessica Lynch became an icon of the war. An all-American heroine, the story of her capture by the Iraqis and her rescue by US special forces became one of the great patriotic moments of the conflict. It couldn’t have happened at a more crucial moment, when the talk was of coalition forces bogged down, of a victory too slow in coming.
Her rescue will go down as one of the most stunning pieces of news management yet conceived. It provides a remarkable insight into the real influence of Hollywood producers on the Pentagon’s media managers, and has produced a template from which America hopes to present its future wars.
Those with a strong tolerance for militarist machismo can read on from there . . .
She’s the one “Palestinian” the U.S. news media truly cared about. 🙂
DEMONSTRATE TOGETHER by Diana Johnstone / Consortium News 021523
<<< If the Feb. 19 rally to end the war in Ukraine fails it will not be a success for other antiwar organizations that disagree with the Libertarian Party. It will only show that internal divisions can unravel every hope. The failure of Feb. 19 would be a failure for all who oppose the war, showing that internal divisions can unravel every hope. >>>
A bunch of people who disagree with each other on a lot of things have actually gotten together to organize a big antiwar rally in Washington next Sunday. I say, Bravo!
In a nation as divided as the United States is today, a large rally of people who agree with each other on everything is hardly imaginable.
A rally by people who disagree with each other gives hope that a movement to stop war can grow, and even shake the political system paralyzed by the military industrial congressional complex and confusion spread by its servile media.
Abroad, the United States has exploited deep political enmities to provoke a war in Ukraine intended to split Europe definitively, cutting Russia off totally from Germany and the EU, cementing permanent U.S. control of Western Europe.
This divisive policy is pursued in all sorts of sneaky ways that make it hard to uncover and explain. The war in Ukraine creates division between those who have understood what it’s all about and those who haven’t. A large movement is needed to spread discussion, understanding and opposition.
While supporting the war machine’s foreign policy of divide and rule, in recent years the American political class has also fostered internal divisions to an unprecedented extent — some of them real, some of them more or less artificial.
The degree of internal animosity echoes the international hatred fostered by U.S. President Joe Biden’s geopolitical mindset. WE are the GOOD (democracy), THEY are BAD (not communism any more, rather, “autocracy”).
At home, Democrats and Republicans, left and right are two different species, one species born good and the other bad. The bad are inherently bad, with a contagious badness, so we must not meet and try to persuade them. We must have nothing to do with them, and a political apartheid might be the solution. A sort of moral/political racism, creating total division between US and THEM reigns both at home and abroad.
In such an atmosphere, it is no wonder that the Feb. 19 rally “Rage Against the War Machine,” its organizers and its speakers, are being attacked for not being good enough.
Organizers & Speakers
The main announced organizers of the Rage rally are two relatively weak political organizations: the People’s Party and the Libertarian Party. Their weakness should be a positive signal. Inasmuch as neither has the strength to manage a really significant antiwar movement alone, these sponsors are voluntarily offering the movement as a gift to all who take it up. So grab it!
Inevitably, however, the rally itself is being attacked, even by some opponents of the current war, on grounds of the political deficiencies of the organizers.
Could veteran activists be so petty as to be jealous that somebody else got there first? I hope not.
Veteran socialist and antiwar militant Jeff Mackler has strongly condemned the rally as “reactionary” mainly because it is backed by the Libertarian Party. Its success would be a defeat for all enemies of the capitalist system, he has claimed. At one point he observes:
“The Libertarians’ call for a return to a capitalist society where ‘free competition’ prevails is pure fantasy.”
For one thing, that policy has nothing to do with the demands of the rally. For another, if Libertarian Party socio-economic policies are indeed pure fantasy, totally inapplicable in today’s world, they are nothing to worry about.
Come to the rally, try to find a Libertarian and argue. Libertarians are against spending billions for war, this is a point of agreement that could start a fruitful discussion.
Leftist militants who believe a man can be transformed into a woman should have no trouble believing that a libertarian might be transformed into a socialist. Such miracles do occur.
Guilt by Association
Besides that, the presence of the People’s Party makes it clear that the Libertarians’ extreme free market policies are irrelevant to the rally.
The Libertarian Party quickly demonstrated its incapacity to lead the movement very far by its failure to support an important announced speaker against personal attacks — to the dismay, incidentally, of leading libertarians. But the bandwagon rolls on.
Some critics of the rally trot out a favorite cliché of the self-righteous left according to which we must stay away in order not to “legitimize” rightwing participants. This “legitimize” threat is merely the other side of the “guilt by association” coin. Both are used to evade discussion of serious matters by treating political convictions as if they were incurable contagious diseases.
It is perfectly childish to claim that anyone is “legitimized” (or guilty) by random association, such as participation in an antiwar demonstration.
The Feb. 19 speakers’ list is very long, perhaps even too long for the time allotted. But the point is precisely to show a range of viewpoints.
However much I may disagree with this one or that one on somethings, or even on everything else, I am glad to see them getting together to stop the rush toward World War III.
When the subject is WAR, if you can join in opposition only with people who agree with you about everything else, you have lost the sense of common humanity.
The organizers’ list is short, too short. It would be great to see ANSWER, Black Alliance for Peace, Code Pink and other longstanding antiwar organizations involved. No single one of them is strong enough to build a major mass movement alone — at least, so far, none of them have proposed anything as promising as Feb. 19.
The failure of Feb. 19 would not be their success. It would be a failure for all who oppose the war, showing that internal divisions can unravel every hope.
The rally is open. Everyone can share its success by crashing the party, arousing their supporters and friends, turning the rally into the broad, wide-open mass movement that can really begin to challenge the war machine. The need for peace is nobody’s private property.
Wherever you see popular resistance to war begin to come to life, go to it and make it belong to everybody.
tnx for alerting us to the johnstone article, jg. her comments make eminent survival sense. as she suggests, the US is a glomerular floccus of competing egos who thrive on the fractious nature of ‘identity politics’. even strikhedonia is less destructive or self-defeating.