Baffoe: Just Give Me The Black and Blue, Not The Red, White, And Blue

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) It began Thursday night, prior to the matchup between the Saints and Packers, when Kid Rock let us know his parents were Elton John and Uncle Sam and continued to not only ruin music but also force feed viewers another big ol’ slice of jingoistic pie. It was pageantry of the absurd, and it will unfortunately continue Sunday with the majority of Week 1 NFL games scheduled.

Sunday, if you haven’t exposed yourself to any media lately until just now, is September 11 and the tenth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil. In 2001 it was a dark day for this country, a day Americans who were cognizant at the time will never forget, though most certainly do try, whether they’ll admit it or not, through the opiates of reality television, consuming goods and services, and of course sports. And that’s okay, that’s natural.

For anyone who didn’t lose someone close on September 11, 2001, it would be unhealthy and morbid to keep those events on the front burner of the mind. Human beings suppress traumatic experiences and other unpleasantries by engaging in activities to get the mind away from pain. Professional sports have long been fantastic for that, and for me they hopefully always will be. The problem is that some people don’t want to give me that luxury.

Since the 9/11 attacks, sporting events have become echo chambers of forced patriotism. Color guards, fighter jets, interrupting games for God Bless America (because one patriotic song isn’t enough, I guess), red, white, and blue patches, ribbons, and thongs, you name it. Shelling out money for a ticket or even just turning on the TV has taken the fan to a kitschy gift shop in Arlington, VA. Perhaps nowhere are the bumper stickers and commemorative China plates hocked more than in the NFL, and Sunday the vendors will be on crack.

It’s odd, really, that people would eat such sugar-coated pomp up while taking in a football game. The appeal and sadistic beauty of football is its perfect savagery. “Gladiator” is a term thrown around to describe its players, yet such a word is closer in reality than people think. Players participate in coordinated violence to the cheers and jeers of a blood-thirsty crowd, one who is largely apathetic to the actual well-being of the participants. Maybe a Roman anthem would be more apropos prior to the game then, eh?

So where does the solemnity of honoring the military or Americans lost factor into that? Why should joy and excitement for a game be buzz-killed with a demand for picking emotional scabs. Would you tell your son prior to a game of catch in the yard that you two need to pause and reflect on the death of a relative? Does a picture of your late grandmother sit on the poker table during the weekly game with your buddies?

It’s around this point in the reading that many will think me treasonous at worst and maybe just a bad guy at best for daring to suggest that anything involving the troops is not perfect or even unnecessary. And because of that I guess I must include the requisite acknowledgement that I love being an American and appreciate the sacrifices our men and women of the military—and police departments and fire departments as well—make every day. I consider myself quite fortunate to have the luxuries I do, and for those home and abroad who contributed to that, I thank you.

I thank my grandfather, Michael Baffoe, who battled the Japanese in the South Pacific, his brothers and brothers-in-law who fought in Europe and Guadalcanal and other parts of Asia, those who returned home and those who did not, and my cousin, Connor Murray, who proudly serves in the United States Air Force. I thank my friends and my former students who have served and are serving. And the same goes for my friends who are cops and firefighters, who would certainly show the same bravery their New York brethren did ten years ago should such another unfortunate incident occur here, God forbid. For not a single one of them do I wish their work belittled by a circus before a sporting event.

I don’t need gravitas in my entertainment outlets. I particularly don’t need it from an organization that is otherwise apathetic to war and our military. That is, unless such things help feather its own nest.

See, something most don’t notice or just refuse to accept is that the NFL doesn’t care about September 11 any more than it will make the NFL money. Viewership for Sunday’s pregame events will be higher because there are many out there that want their heartstrings tugged before they demand that a large man wearing their favorite uniform hit a large man in another uniform with as much force as possible. The television hosts will don flag pins and speak in weighted tones on camera while yelling at an intern off camera for not getting the right cup of gourmet coffee. Features will be shown on an NFLer whose cousin is a New York firefighter, and we will be asked to eat the pathos along with our seven layer dip, and many will gorge on both.

Maybe Pat Tillman gets mentioned, but nothing too in depth because what was once a great story—for the military, for America, for the pockets of guys in suits—has been sullied by the truth of what happened to him and that his family doesn’t like “These Colors Don’t Run” t-shirts and neither would Tillman. That damn, dirty truth.

It’s all about PR and revenue, my patriotic peers. The league graciously announced it would not fine players for breaking uniform code in order to sport red, white, and blue gloves and cleats and growth hormone. That would look bad to the masses who think advertising the USA makes someone a better person. A better person like Lance Briggs, who said prior to the league announcement that he didn’t care how much he got fined, he was going to wear what he wanted on Sunday. How noble, especially for a guy looking to get back on the good side of fans after complaining that he isn’t being paid enough by his team. That’s what the kid from the town of 2,000 fighting halfway around the world signed up to defend surely.

The NFL and the NFLPA announced a few weeks ago that they were donating $1 million to 9/11 charities. That only leaves about $8,999,000,000 in revenue. Amazing that Roger Goodell will even be able to fill up his gas tank Sunday. From now on I will announce whenever I give a dollar to a homeless person who I won’t think twice about afterward and pat myself on the back. Especially when that homeless person is likely a veteran.

War is hell. Life is unpleasant. Sports are perfect and just. Tainting that perfection by mixing in real life and much of its injustice is superfluous, if not insulting. It also belittles the work and sacrifices of brave men and women when sports pretend to have genuine concern and compassion for them by showing them on camera, getting them a few seconds of applause by a largely indifferent crowd, and then giving them carte blanche at the concession stand before returning them back to the harshness of their service and their acquired demons.

If the NFL really had as much respect for our military or those who perished on 9/11 as they would have you believe, then the league would do what it did ten years ago—have no games take place. But that certainly won’t happen. There’s money to gain from this and entertainment and emotion to manufacture.

If you are a fan of The Simpsons like I am, you probably remember the great episode where Homer becomes a professional boxer. Just before his big fight, Michael Buffer announces to the crowd, “Due to popular demand, we will forgo our national anthem.” A joke, of course, but within every chunk of satire hides a nugget of truth. In sports, people truly want sports and beer and cheerleaders. Nothing more, nothing less. Even the fans who applaud the pro-America stuff would not turn off the game or not buy a ticket if that stuff was suddenly absent.

I gravitate to sports to get away from the grind of real life, of rampant violence and my mortgage and political strife. Sports are my favorite opiate. And I’ll combine that opiate Sunday with a few others—an adult beverage or two and some very unhealthy food—the real American Dream. I don’t want that corrupted by an American Nightmare.

Apple pie doesn’t go too well with football. Can I just have my football and eat it, too?

More from Tim Baffoe
  • Larry Horse's Arse

    We were allowed to have The Mass for the Dead this morning (rather than the usual Mass for today).
    I lost two classmates that day. One was on the 103rd floor, the other was an FDNY Lt. who rushed in…Lt. Joseph Leavey was buried on what would have been his 46th birthday.
    Sports has become our national substitute for religion.
    I agree with your column.
    The place for remembering was at a religious or a civic ceremony, not at a place of entertainment where the beer flows and people yell and scream.
    Good column, Tim. Very thoughtful, well-written.

    • Mark, Sterling

      Ummmm….there are people who ARE NOT religious that lost family and friends on 9/11 too. While I agree that football probably isn’t the best vehicle for remembrance…….neither is a damn church.

    • Ashamed

      Very thoughtful? It’s a temper tantrum. Giving men and women a few minutes to be on the field with the teams was a good thing.The NFL got it right, this spoiled brat, who doesn’t want to give those who serve a few minutes, should be ashamed.

  • B. Dub

    Nice, Tim. A fan is born.

  • lee hougland

    You are a moron…

    • Perry

      You’ve made a formidable counter-argument. Stay eloquent, my friend.

    • Big Cat

      And you are what is wrong with this country.

      • Max

        The Old Patriotic Harrumph Trick…the classics never die!

    • Wally B.

      You tea party types spell it “moran” !

  • Spoon

    Pregame stuff was fine, the commercials made me want to vomit by mid first quarter.

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      Exactly. I have no problem with flag-waving to kick off a season on the 10th anniversary. I have no problem with the Star Spangled Banner. I can even tolerate “God Bless America” in the 7th.

      However, Patriotism and 9/11 fervor in particular have become marketed entities. It just doesn’t stop anymore.

  • frankrizzo51

    Missed the point entirely my friend. If you don’t like it, don’t watch. Easy answer. Make sure you don’t miss the next service at Westboro Baptist Church.

    • Cheez

      Is it so wrong to want to watch a football game and not have the American flag forcibly shoved down your throat? This was a fantastic blog posting, and it echoed my sentiments, as well as many others,

      He did not miss the point at all. The point was to expose the hypocrisy of the NFL for profiting off of the most traumatic event in many of our lives – and he succeeded in doing so.

      Mr. Baffoe, you have done a great job, and I look forward to reading more of your columns. Frankrizzo51, I think it may be time for you to take some of your own advice and not read things that may offend your “rally ’round the flag” mentality or any other sensibilities.

      • Narcissims

        This is a horrible article written by a narcissist who strings together illogical pieces to come to a conclusion — much like a snot nosed brat throwing a temper tantrum. Under his logic the NFL should ignore 9/11 so he can fatten himself up on pie and a few beers so he can be entertained without caring about those who sacrificed for him. The NFL did it right. The gave men and women in uniform fifteen minutes of celebration — that is, men and women who make 40k a year and would give everything they have so he can eat pie and drink some beer. There is no better definition of selfish than that.

  • Adam

    I agree entirely I have many former classmates and coworkers alike who are/were in the military and they hate this garbage. it is an insult to the memories of everyone who lost their lives on 9/11 and who have lost them defending our country since.

  • rjmchgo

    I have been arguing for years since way before the attacks that the anthem, ribbons, etc. have no business at sporting events. It’s all about marketing and money. Most people just can’t accept this. It’s not a matter of watching or not. It is the sheer phoniness of the actions. Watch the fans during the anthem or other field activities. Their apathy tells the story. Welcome aboard Tim.

  • Val

    Great column!!!..Exact and Right ON!!!!……Sports has indeed become our religion..we watch football rather than attend church services.
    The hypocrisy which is the American Corporate system has reared its ugly head this week, as is on display for all America to see. The NFL cares only about promoting itself, selling hats and t-shirts, and the networks (especially NBC this week) have disgraced themselves.. Kid Rock??… come on!!!..Lady Antebellum? Jeez!!..Al Michaels has always been a corporate puppet, and Chris Collinsworth is learning from the best..What a moron…
    We need to separate sports and politics as we separate church and state…
    I appreciate the column; well written, and dead on target..

  • ConnorB

    I’m glad to see that someone has called out the corporate hypocrisy about their motivations in bringing this 9/11 “circus” to the nation- they’ve turned what should have been a day of private reflection into a vulgar parody of a nation’s grief…

    I’m so glad I don’t have a television- the number of self-serving 9/11 “tributes”, from Fox Noise and CNN to the NFL and NASCAR, in saturation all day, is frankly, sickening. I really believe the people who lost their lives in that terrible tragedy would be ashamed to see the state our country has become *in their names*.

    Today, I mourn not only for the victims, but for the dream that used to be called America.

  • Well if you say so

    Good stuff and I’m an AMERICAN. The marketing of sadness and sorrow is just plain ole impolite and crass to me. Hey corporations have aright to make a profit but damn, really such emotional overkill as this, really? Watching the live coverage as it unfolded the day of was the only program I use to actually watch and it was for me just a moment then to reflect. I say “use to” because after they begin to fill the re-broadcast with commercials i felt so slimy and therefore stopped watching. This entire month so far has the feel of an emotional marketing ponzi scheme.

  • David B

    “Sports are perfect and just” Are you serious Doug? Sports are far from perfect and just. Even if no players ever broke any off the field rules (specifically using HGH and other PHD’s) on the field we still have penalties, fouls and walks.

    There is a room for “shoving the American flag” down your throat in all things American, because thats what they are….American.

    Perhaps you would rather go live in Somalia or Uganda where people got killed for watching the world cup. Why can’t most Americans cant look past their own closeminded brains thinking that since we are safe here, that we are safe everywhere?

    For me, Im damn proud to be an American and will gladly take my hat off and give thanks everytime I see any first responder or Soldier who has lost a loved one since this WAR on terror started 10 years ago.

    I will leave one last statement that cannot ring anymore true than what I have seen lately and that is “America is not at war, America is at the mall shopping, the Marine Corps is at war.”

  • Pamela Cambria

    Great Article Mr. Baffoe! and Go Bears Go!

  • Taco-Lover Tom

    Careful, TFM. Articles like this may risk awakening your Jingoism Gay, whom, I’m afraid, would be likely to get his ass kicked by Bernstein’s Hockey Gay (not that he’d necessarily mind).

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      That was really, really funny on several levels.
      Bravo TLT

    • Taco-Lover Tom

      “Who.” Not “whom.” Duh. Sorry.

  • Tim Rieder

    Perfectly valid argument, however, I feel the acknowledgement to our men and women serving is well intended even with the deep routed hypocrisy. I feel this is all about perception. You reference that its getting crammed down your throat. I guess, if you consume enough media it would feel that way. My advice, punch in and out. Tip your cap to the flag and all the rest then move on.

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