x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Patriotism feels forced on loyal NFL spectators

Mike Tierney finds supporters can love their country and their teams without demonstrating both to excess during Thanksgiving week.

Dallas Cowboys fans find a unique way of celebrating Thanksgiving.
Dallas Cowboys fans find a unique way of celebrating Thanksgiving.

I attended a game last Sunday, though at moments it felt like an extended observance of nationalism interspersed with some blocking and tackling.

There were patriotic songs and recognition of the military before the kick off, at half time, even during timeouts. Fans spent nearly as much time with hands over hearts as hands applauding their team.

Flag-waving, literal and figurative, is fine at our athletic events, but it should be exhibited selectively, in small doses. The NFL appears to have attached its wagon to patriotism, almost as if it keeping displays in check might invite criticism.

Football, by the way, is hardly alone. The tune God Bless America, once reserved for special occasions during baseball's seventh-inning stretch, has become mandatory. The practice of honouring the men and women in (non-sports) uniform with such a rah-rah musical soundtrack can offer a compelling reminder that enjoying these games is an exercise in freedom.

But this trend belongs in the too-much-of-a-good-thing file. What once seemed genuine and fresh now comes across as ritualistic and forced.

Performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, the nation's anthem, is as ingrained in the lead-up to games as the announcement of starting line ups. It is here to stay.

As for the rest, by restoring a sensible balance, the exercise would carry more meaning.

Americans can love their country and their teams without demonstrating both to excess in the same setting.