Wednesday, April 14, 2010

7 comments Tim Keown Hates the United States Military and I Hate Rick Reilly

Ok, so Tim Keown doesn't really hate the military. He does have a few questions about the military being present at sporting events though. Also, Rick Reilly has an article that is sentimental and shitty. Actually, he is just shitty overall. He's God-awful and terrible. He's a overly sentimental and it just comes off syrupy in this column...which is par for the course with him.

I will start with Tim Keown and his article that is sort of all over the place. This article had 3 comments on it and all three were in favor of what Tim Keown wrote. It's the first time all the comments on an ESPN article are positive, at least that I can remember. I don't give a shit, screw them, I disagree with what he writes in this article.

The scene at Nationals Park before the Philadelphia Phillies-Washington Nationals opener on Monday was a familiar one for the nation's capital: huge flags stretched out across the outfield, bunting throughout the stadium and President Obama on hand to throw out the first pitch.

Obama threw out the first pitch and immediately it was clear he was better than half of the Nationals pitching staff.

Teams have long used big events to honor the military, and it's a relationship that works well for both sides.

It's not really supposed to "work" in any fashion. The military presents the flag and an anthem is sung while the military stand there on the field. It's ceremonial and I don't see the problem with it.

It's rare for military members who sacrifice so much to be recognized in such a public setting, and the teams can feel good about making the gesture to a segment of the community that deserves it.

I think this is all we pretty much need to know about why teams do this. End of story. But no, Tim Keown has more problems with this public gesture towards the military.

(Members of the military also can serve as shields for politicians who know they can provide a buffer in a public setting.)

This is not the reason the military are present at games.

(On a side note, I live in a state that is incredibly populated with members of the military and I took satellite classes in grad school at Fort Bragg with military members. I am by no means an expert on the military, but I do have some experience in their company. I have never been in the military, so maybe I have no clue. By the way, driving around Fort Bragg for someone who never bothered to get a map to get around the place is difficult. It is a REALLY hard place to find a classroom. I drove around for an hour and a half before my class. Though the fact they made me open up my golf bag at the front entrance and peeked in there for weapons definitely made up for how I got lost after that. I also enjoyed how they checked under my car for any bombs. It made me feel safe knowing there was no bomb under my car. My rambling point is that I am used to military members being around me and so I am used to military at games presenting the flag and I like this tradition.)

However, as I stood in the press box and watched this particular scene unfold, I wondered whether the relationship has become too familiar, too cozy.

Right. Perhaps American like their military members too much? We honor them too much for the sacrifice they have made for this country. Perhaps we should let some other group of people come out on the field with guns and hold the flag. MENSA would be a good choice I think.

As Tim Keown stood in the press box eating free food and sipping on sodas out of the sun, he had the deep thought that perhaps there is no place for the military at sporting events. Shouldn't they be fighting somewhere?

We spend a lot of time and energy debating the efficacy of defining our sports in war terms. During the past eight or nine years, we've become less inclined to describe games as battles and athletes as courageous for playing with minor injuries.

I think everyone knows calling an athlete courageous for playing through an injury or using war terms is pure hyperbole. No one really thinks we can equate an ankle injury with an injury that may occur during a war. It's pure hyperbole.

We rise up in righteous indignation when someone like Kellen Winslow Jr. overstates his status in the world by calling himself a soldier and his sport a war. This doesn't fly with us -- he's disrespecting the troops, he doesn't know his place, all that stuff.

I don't think anyone was indignant at what Winslow Jr. said. We just thought he looked borderline retarded for yelling that he was a soldier in his college locker room, when he was clearly a football player and nowhere near a soldier. I don't think anyone took it seriously enough to get pissed off. That was the funny part. He was a college athlete and he was very, very firm that he was a soldier. It was very juvenile. It was more embarrassing for him than anything.

But I'm wondering whether it might be worse when the opposite is true, when we approach war as if it were a sporting event.

(Bengoodfella reading this sentence quizzically 4-5 times)

I didn't know we approach war like it was a sporting event. I can't recall saying someone was going to Afghanistan "to play a few rounds with his teammates" or saying a soldier who takes an extra tour of duty as "taking the game to overtime." I just don't see the world as a whole treating war like it is a sporting event.

The men and women who held the flags at Nationals Park were all veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. The men and women who lined the red carpet were all injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Simply because they were at a sporting event, in their capacity as a veterans of the Iraq War by the way, does not mean what they are/were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan was being approached as if it was a sporting event. They are soldiers at a game in their capacity as soldiers and performing an act traditionally only active service members or veterans perform.

The veterans are not there because people believe they are athletes or taking part in an athletic competition in any fashion. Sports gets compared to war. I have never heard war get compared to sports.

As the injured vets were announced by name, they were cheered by the sellout crowd. As the cheering picked up, a chant started and ultimately drowned out the clapping. The chant, as you might imagine, was "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

The crowd was chanting "U-S-A!" because it is a way of saying they are behind the veterans and appreciate all they have done for the United States. It's a small token and is very nationalistic, but I think it has its place sometimes.

It says, "we know you may not hear this much, but regardless of whether we agree with the war you fighting in or not, we are behind you. Therefore we will chant 'U-S-A' to show you we have pride in our country and your sacrifices."

I preface this by saying I am sometimes accused -- and convicted -- of overthinking an issue. I'm also inclined to ascribe motives that aren't in evidence or inject too much meaning into the meaningless.

How about being accused of writing rambling articles and putting out an article that is pretty useless because you can't think of anything else to write...I wonder if anyone accused Tim Keown of that?

The "U-S-A!" chant, to me, is better suited to following a Shaun White performance in the halfpipe or a Mike Eruzione goal against the Russians -- not the introduction of a group that included a young man who lost a leg.

Why? Why on Earth is it not suitable to start chanting "U-S-A" at a sporting event where there are veterans on the field? I know of no better way, other than by monetary means, to let the veterans know we support them and are thinking about them in a situation like this. A moment of silence for soldiers not in attendance would be fine, but this isn't sufficient for the soldiers in attendance.

But to me, the chanting is tone-deaf. The moment called for something a little more somber than a nationalistic chant.

It is a nationalistic chant, but for a sport like baseball where so many of baseball's greatest players have fought in wars, I think it is appropriate. I don't think a baseball game when military veterans are on the field is a time to be somber, especially when veterans who have seen enough somber shit recently in their lives are present.

A good many baseball players missed seasons in the 1940's to go fight in World War II, even if the flag waving may be too much for people, I don't see how the "U-S-A" chant can't be seen as somewhat relevant at a baseball game in Washington.

It's not necessarily wrong, but the ground does seem a little slippery. It's not a question of supporting our troops but understanding and appreciating them in the right context.

I wouldn't disagree with this, but I think a chant at a baseball game with veterans on the field is an appropriate time. It shows their sacrifice is appreciated in the best way it can be shown at the moment. I think if I was a soldier who had lost a limb or something, I could appreciate this a little bit.

The gap between the military and nonmilitary -- in both understanding and shared sacrifice -- is bigger than it ever has been during wartime.

No one is pretending to understand what the military soldiers are going through, they are simply trying to show they support them with a chant. I don't think a chant of "U-S-A" should start every time veterans are on the field or anything, but I don't see a problem with the occasional chant.

There is a role for sports and athletes to play in closing that gap: Drew Brees, to name one, has been instrumental in raising awareness of the sacrifices and realities that members of the military face.

Anyone who knows a military member or the family of a military member already knows the sacrifices they face. Still, good for Brees.

But there are nuances involved, and those nuances make it uncomfortable to listen to a rousing chant while a brave man stands there with an empty pant leg.

I can see the problem, if you are overthinking the situation, because it appears everyone is cheering like the crowd at a gladiator arena as a wounded soldier is standing there. I can see how it would take someone back the dichotomy of cheering for a person who has given a limb in war at a baseball game. It may not seem right to cheer, but you aren't cheering or chanting because he/she got injured, it is because you appreciate they sacrificed for the country you live in (begins waving American flag). I just think silence or any other acknowledgment would fall woefully short of showing these people how we feel for their sacrifice.

What are people going to do? Not cheer? Cheering is really no different than chanting. They both involve loud noises in celebration, it's just a chant is more synchronized and stands apart more. I can see how it would feel like they are chanting in celebration when a person may not seem to have much to celebrate. I tell you, it is a big thing for that brave man on the field to be standing there and that deserves some sort of acknowledgment. Chanting was that acknowledgment at the time. That brave man isn't necessarily depressed or somber about this occasion, he is probably got a much better attitude towards his injury than one would expect him to have. I don't feel like this is a time for somberness and I don't feel this person would believe the crowd is out of line by chanting.

It may be uncomfortable to listen to a rousing chant in this situation, but this chant is no different than a celebration of a soldier, even an injured one, coming home. It's a happiness at all this person has done and a soldier has had enough negative shit in his life to be offended by a "U-S-A" chant.

-Rick Reilly is terrible. Most things he writes are so saccharine and his column on Phil Mickelson is no exception. Here he writes an article about how Phil Mickelson's victory is a victory for women.

Actually, Phil Mickelson won, but for millions of women around the country, it must feel like a lipstick-sized victory. Mickelson, in case you forgot, is the guy who stayed true to his wife. He's the guy who's been missing tournaments the last 11 months while he flies her back and forth to a breast cancer specialist in Houston. He's the guy who didn't need reminding that women are not disposable.

Rick Reilly loves a sentimental sporting event. He hates sports, but loves sentimentality. Combine his hatred for sports and love for sentimentality and you have his weekly column.

So when Amy turned up on the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National for the first time in 11 months and Mickelson practically fell into her outstretched arms, you wanted to hug somebody yourself.

I am not saying this wasn't a great victory for Mickelson, but I can't get past the fact it almost seems like his victory at the Master's somehow makes the breast cancer his wife and mother-in-law have more bearable or takes a weight off the family in some way. It doesn't. Women didn't win at the Master's, Phil Mickelson did. He has two family members who have breast cancer, their diagnosis have not changed and their lives are not any easier (outside of the check he won for winning the tournament), than they were if he had come in 3rd place.

I had to get that off my chest.

You figured a guy who came into this Masters having played only seven tournaments this year -- and never placing better than eighth in any of them -- would have a snowball's chance.

It's not like Mickelson had forgotten how to play golf or anything. It is the second full week of April, Mickelson has played in half of the overall tournaments, so we have to keep that in mind when knowing he only had participated in seven so far. The season isn't that old, so 7 tournaments is still a good amount.

"He just had this peace to him that I haven't seen in awhile," said Bones.

I heard Mickelson say twice that he was more relaxed this week because he knew he could make mistakes on the golf course, due to Augusta being a forgiving course and him feeling comfortable taking risks. So the peace had something to do with his wife AND the golf course from what he said during the tournament.

"It's been tough," Mickelson said. "The meds that she's been taking have been very difficult and she didn't feel well and she doesn't have energy and she's not just up for a lot. But to have her here, man …"

It's awesome that he won the Master's and his wife got to be there. It was a pretty special moment, especially given Tiger Woods has gotten so many headlines for being the anti-Phil Mickelson. Still, it is partially ruined by Rick Reilly writing any column about it. He has the special way of writing that seems to demean an event by fitting it into his neat little sentimental and cute world.

Amy Mickelson is the kind of walking rainbow that could put a smile on a mortician's face, so when she showed up, everything started looking up. The golf gods started raining favors down on Mickelson's curly hair. On Saturday, golf balls started going into tiny little cups from great distances. Sunday, it got even better:

Mickelson was in the running for the lead the entire tournament. He didn't just turn it around when his wife showed up.

"I saw Amy just before I putted," Mickelson said. "That was so great. I mean, I didn't know if she would be there. To walk off the green and share that with her is just very, very emotional. We'll remember this the rest of our lives."

So he started playing better because of his wife's presence even though he didn't know she was there? For me, Reilly somehow trying to tie in Amy's presence with Mickelson doing better during the weekend is Reilly trying to add an emotional element that isn't there. This was already an exciting and emotional moment, nobody needs Rick Reilly pouring syrup over the situation and turning Mickelson's Masters victory into his own greeting card-type column.

Soon enough, though, Woods will win tournaments like this, pass Nicklaus, and order will be restored in the universe. But for this one Sunday in a flower-stuffed pocket of Georgia, the good husband, the good son, the good man actually got rewarded.

This was Mickelson's third Masters victory, and he is the best/second best golfer in the world. It's not like he is an underdog or anything.

Mostly, I just want to say this isn't a win for women, which is what the title of this article says. If Mickelson had lost the tournament, come in second place, or missed the cut entirely it would never make up for the fact his wife and mother-in-law have breast cancer. It's a bit dramatic and really actually wrong to say Mickelson's win was a win for women. It was a win for the Mickelson family and whether he had won the tournament or not, women with breast cancer are in no better shape on Monday than they were on Sunday morning before Mickelson won.

If the golfer who won the tournament was a woman and she had breast cancer, it would be a completely different story, but it is a bit wrong to indicate, and actually fairly demeaning to breast cancer survivors to indicate somehow a sporting event being won by the husband of a breast cancer victim is a win for everyone. This was a big and emotional win for the Mickelson family, but to try to turn into a win for women as a whole is at-best overly sentimental and at-worst is a trivializing the struggle women with breast cancer go through.


Martin said...

I can think of no better place for the U-S-A chant than at a sporting event to honor America's vets and active military. I think it has become overblown and silly when used as often as it is at things like the Olympics. It started off cool in 1980 with the hockey team, bot 30 years me it's pretty much done. On the otherhand, for something like that at National's Stadium, cool!

Bengoodfella said...

I like the chant at sporting events when there are vets and active military in the audience. I don't think it is demeaning to the military or confuses war with sporting events. It's a simple way of chanting and saying they support the sacrifice they made.

Yeah, it's nationalistic, but I think it is also a pretty big honor for the active military and vets...especially those who have been injured in action.

KentAllard said...

I don't want to be the kind of person who can bring a smile to the face of a mortician, that's creepy. What the hell is he smiling about?

The wounded vet at the game was there because he wanted to be there, so he was presumably okay with the ceremony. If he didn't want that, he wouldn't have showed. It's no big deal either way.

I think the biggest surprise people who haven't been in the military would have is soldiers, sailors, etc. don't sit around talking about patriotism all the time. People join the various branches of service for many reasons, only one of which is patriotic duty. Speaking just from my own experience, of course.

The Casey said...

KA, he's smiling 'cause he's got you alone and it's not like you're going to be telling anybody what's about to happen.


Bengoodfella said...

Kent, I agree. It is not always a patriotic thing. I didn't mean to make it sound like I thought that.

I would guess if that vet didn't want to be at the game, he didn't have to be there. Alas, he was there and got applause. This isn't a bad thing.

KentAllard said...

Casey, That's exactly what I'm afraid of!

Ben, wasn't criticizing you, just in my experience inside, soldiers are about as patriotic as non-soldiers. Keown is making something out of nothing, though.

Bengoodfella said...

I don't care if you criticize me or anything, so don't worry about apologizing. I have survived a verbal war against crazy-ass Apolo Ohno fans, I can handle a little disagreement. I wasn't sure if I believed what I was writing until I edited it.

For soldiers, it is a job many times. A way to pay for school possibly, something to do instead of/after college, or just an interest they have.

It's not all about getting motivated by a Toby Keith song and wanting to kill anything of Middle Eastern descent (I think that statement should be in all recruiting stations). It's a job and not all about patriotism.