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Back home, in camouflage jerseys and propaganda videos, this acceptance penetrates our days and nights at the stadium. There is no escape.

This is closer to fascism than most would like to admit. There is nothing wrong with honoring military veterans and respecting the hellishness of their ordeals for the small salary the U. As Bernie Sanders, one of the only presidential candidates interested in radically rethinking American imperialism, has said, we can honor veterans by giving them adequate employment, housing, and health care while keeping their descendants at home. This, though, is not the message of the sports arena. Fighter jets roaring through the sky are supposed to awe us.

Motor Boating, Tug of War and 3 More Odd Olympic Sports From the Past - HistoryExtra

For the fans in Fresno who thought they were simply there to watch a ballgame played by men in their late twenties and fringe major leaguers, they were treated instead to politics in the extreme: Reagan intoning over images of American soldiers fighting in World War II and Vietnam, along with jets taking off from aircraft carriers and Navy SEALs emerging from the water, guns blazing. Politics, inherently, cannot be divorced from sports, not with the billions spent on it and the racial and class forces forever in play.

The question, then, is whose politics are allowed onto the field. Teams are not staging teacher, nurse, sanitation worker, or artist appreciation nights. The powerful people who make these decisions have already made up their minds. Ross Barkan's debut novel, Demolition Night , was published last year.

William J. Astore

An award-winning journalist and former candidate for office, he is a columnist for the Guardian and a frequent contributor to Gothamist. Heads Up: We recently updated our privacy policy to clarify how and why we collect personal data. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand this policy.

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New email subscribers receive a free copy of our current issue. Further Reading. November Admittedly, it was a dramatic way to begin anything, but why exactly an international tennis match that happened to feature finalists from Spain and South Africa? That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military, and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.

More than 14 years later, that combination — corporations, the military, and mass spectator sports, all wrapped in a gigantic version of the stars and stripes — has increasingly come to define what it means to be an American. And much credit goes to professional sports for that transformation.

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In conjunction with the military and marketed by corporations, they have reshaped the very practice of patriotism in America. Think about it.


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A set of corporate-military partnerships or, if you prefer, some version of President Dwight D. In other words, sports teams now have a powerful set of incentives to appear patriotic, which increasingly means slavishly pro-military. Indeed, the widespread if shallow support of the military by so many athletes may, in some cases, be driven by a kind of guilt. Driven by corporate agendas and featuring exaggerated military displays, mass-spectator sports are helping to shape what Americans perceive and believe. In stadiums across the nation, on screens held in our hands or dominating our living rooms, we witness fine young men and women in uniform unfurling massive flags on football fields and baseball diamonds, even on tennis courts, as combat jets scream overhead.

Questioning the same — indeed, questioning authority in any form — is, of course, bad and wrong and unpatriotic. Sports should be about having fun; about joy, passion, and sharing; about the thrill of competition, the splendor of the human condition; and so much more. I still remember the few home runs I hit in softball. I still remember breaking for the first time in bowling.

I still remember the faces of my teammates in softball and the fun times I had with good people. It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system. And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way….

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Indeed, democracy is the special condition — a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already. Mailer, it should be noted, was a veteran, having served in the U. And much credit goes to professional sports for that transformation.

In conjunction with the military and marketed by corporations, they have reshaped the very practice of patriotism in America. Air Force FC Eagles. Then came a staged military family reunion, as a young officer serving on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier appeared on the Jumbotron to tell her family, gathered on the field below, that she wished she could join them at Fenway.

As the video played, the officer herself emerged from behind a flag covering the leftfield wall.

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The family was surprised. The crowd went wild. Cheering for the troops, in effect, provides a convenient mechanism for voiding obligation and easing guilty consciences. The late German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a name for this unearned self-forgiveness and undeserved self-regard.