Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bad Comparisons

I had a great time watching the Super Bowl this weekend, and it was made even better by the fact the Steelers brought the hardware home to Pittsburgh.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Aside from the very brief period when the Arizona Cardinals took the lead in the fourth quarter, there was really only one thing that annoyed me about the game. Actually, it was in the week-long lead up to the Super Bowl – and pretty much every other Super Bowl and every football game important or not – and in many of the interviews when the final gun had sounded.

“O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!”
– Fourth Verse, Star Spangled Banner

I don’t remember exactly who it was – he says studiously averting his eyes from Pittsburgh’s quarterback among others – but every time I hear a millionaire football player refer to his teammates as a “band of brothers” and the game as a “field of battle” I cringe a little.

"The noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and war's desolation.” – Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy football and it’s the gladiatorial sport of our day. The players in the NFL are some of the best athletes in the world and I’m consistently amazed at how they do what they do. And how they get up again and again after having been done to.

But, with incredibly and extraordinarily rare exceptions (to name a few), not a God damn one of them has any fucking idea what they’re talking about. Those well manicured fields at the center of multi-hundred million dollar stadiums are not “fields of battle” and, while they may be close to their teammates, I don’t think I’d go so far as to call a football team a “band of brothers.”

“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile”
Saint Crispin’s Day Speech, Henry V

I agree with the Bard of Avon. To this day I still remember the names and faces of most of the Marines I served with during the Gulf War. The Marines who came and went before and after? Not so much. Just to be clear, I served in a headquarters communications unit and did not fire my M-16 during the war. Neither did anyone else in the company for that matter, but that does not lessen the bonds I feel toward those with whom I served.

Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn't know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him.” – From "Taking Chance" a personal narrative by Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Strobl, USMC.

Premiering later this month, Feb. 21, is the HBO movie “Taking Chance” starring Kevin Bacon as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl. In April 2004 Strobl escorted the body of Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps from Dover Air Force Base to Phelps’ home in Dubois, Wyoming.

If you want a glimmer what it is to be a member of a band of brothers, click on Chance Phelps name above and read Strobl’s story. More than 300,000 fans turned out in the streets of Pittsburgh yesterday to welcome the Steelers home, but all of their cheers pale in comparison to the power of emotion expressed and experienced by two Marines making their way across the heart of America.


Anonymous said...

I read the aforementioned article on Sunday morning (NFL Orders Retreat From War Metaphors - WaPo) and thought "it's about damn time." I played football at some pretty high levels and this has always annoyed the hell out of me too.

FoggyDew said...

Refugee - Ever since one of my neighbors kept stealing my WaPo and I canceled my subscription, I've really missed the sports section. Glad to hear I'm not alone in this.

LiLu said...

I guess I should stop referring to the aisles of my neighborhood Giant as the Fields of Battle.


FoggyDew said...

LiLu - From what I understand of your neighborhood and the Giant there, that's probably not a bad description.