Friday, November 06, 2015

Honoring the troops for profit

Senators John McCain and his fellow Arizona Republican Jeff Flake (great name) have revealed that the War (Defense) Department (DOD) has been paying for those displays of hyper-militarism that mar our professional sports contests. Apparently billionaire sport owners have to be bribed to strut their patriotism.

Over the period 2012-15, the Senators' report claims the total of such expenditures was some $6.8 million -- chump change in the military budget, but enough to envelop sports viewers in martial enthusiasm.

These paid tributes included on-field color guards, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, [as well as] ceremonial first pitches and puck drops.

[Some football examples:] The National Guard paying the Seattle Seahawks for the “opportunity for up to 10 soldiers to re-enlist pre-game on the field” at a 2014 game;

The Air Force paying the Cincinnati Bengals $4,960 for 60 club level tickets;

The National Guard paying the Indianapolis Colts for use of a luxury suite, autographed items, pre-game field visits and cheerleader appearances

Some football teams whose participation were apparently worth top dollar to the military:
  • Atlanta received $879,000
  • New England Patriots, $700,000
  • Buffalo Bills, $650,000
On the other hand, San Francisco's lowly 49ers only pulled in $125,000. I guess either the team or the fans struck somebody in the patriotism industry as losers. Maybe both.

A goodly number of these payments seem to have gone to ensure that favored military VIPs could enjoy luxury boxes.

Over this weekend we'll be seeing numerous Veterans Day tributes at football games. I wonder what the military is paying for those?

See also Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk; apparently author Ben Fountain intuited even more than he imagined about the perfidy of these "tributes to the troops."

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