Out with the pink, in with the G.I. Joe. That was the message all over the NFL yesterday, as the league shifted into “military appreciation” mode. There were G.I. Joe captaincy patches; G.I. Joe goalpost bumpers; G.I. Joe gloves; G.I. Joe pylons; G.I. Joe graphics on the game balls; G.I. Joe ribbons for the coaches and the zebras; G.I. Joe isotonic beverage towels (no word on what the cups looked like or what they were filled with); branding on the end line (first time I can ever recall seeing something printed there); and military escorts for player intros. All teams wore G.I. Joe ribbon decals on their helmets, and many teams added military service unit decals for good measure (with a few teams using lots of different ones). At least one team — the Colts — dressed its cheerleaders in military uniforms, which strikes me as wildly inappropriate. Oh, and just in case anyone was missing the point, Lambeau Field featured this. Subtle.
All this hokum is supposedly at least somewhat connected to Veterans Day. But (1) Vets Day is next Sunday, not yesterday; (2) the festivities are actually more geared toward active duty personnel, not veterans; and (3) although the NFL’s G.I. Joe-isms may be seasonal, they’re part of a larger G.I. Joe industrial complex that has become a full-time enterprise throughout the sports world — an enterprise that includes all those fighter jet flyovers, all those military personnel singing the national anthem and “God Bless America,” and, of course, all the camouflage uniform elements that have become a staple of the uni-verse. Seriously, when was the last time we had a week without some team going G.I. Joe? We’ll see more of it this Friday, when at least eight college hoops teams (or maybe more, I’ve lost track) will go G.I. Joe for their season-opening games.
Collectively, this enterprise has turned the sports world into a de facto propaganda mill, implicitly promoting the notion that all military endeavors are inherently just and honorable — a notion that is false. Of course, many military endeavors are just and honorable, but the blanket rubber-stamping of “military appreciation” strikes me as a worrisome and even dangerous trend, as does the implicit conflation of “military appreciation” with patriotism. We all know that Vietnam vets got a raw deal upon returning to America, many of them being blamed for their participation in an unpopular war. But it feels like our culture has now overcompensated, giving the thumbs-up to virtually anything military-related without any critical thought or analysis. (By coincidence, there’s a good article about this in today’s New York Times.) The sports world, and especially the uni-verse, has been a prime mover in this cultural shift.
By far the most interesting move on the field yesterday was made by the Cardinals, who chose to appreciate the military by wearing “40” helmet decals — Pat Tillman’s old number. Of course, the military lied about the circumstances of Tillman’s death in an attempt to create a fraudulent propaganda narrative. In other words, they exploited his status as an athlete to promote their own agenda. Now the NFL is exploiting his status as a solider to promote the league’s agenda. Nice now everything comes full-circle, eh?
I know some of you reading this are past or present military personnel. I know some of you may have enlisted out of a sincere desire to serve your country, that others of you may have enlisted out of economic necessity, and that still others may have enlisted in order to forge a career path. There’s nothing wrong with any of those routes. I have respect for what you do, and I know that some of you can truly be considered heroes. But I also know that not all military members are heroes, just as not all heroes are in the military. I mean you no ill will, but I believe the sports world’s celebration of the military has gotten badly out of whack.
(Incidentally: It’s worth noting that every NFL helmet has carried an American flag decal since Sept. 11, 2001. Wasn’t that to support the troops? Maybe the effect of the flag wears off after 11 years. Or maybe that’s now a perma-decal..? Hmmmmm.)
A certain subset of the readership will no doubt complain that I’ve gotten “too political” today. But don’t blame me; instead, blame the NFL, because they’re the ones who put all the G.I. Joe-isms front and center. Make no mistake, that’s the political act here. I’m just responding to what I see.
Now then, as to the rest of yesterday’s NFL action:
• The ’Skins wore their 1930s throwbacks, and I hope we can agree that those leatherhead-esque helmets were an unqualified success. Hope to see more teams doing this. Meanwhile, I don’t approve of the image on Mike Shanahan’s sweatshirt, but I do like that it appears to have been chain-stitched. (Interesting to see that Shanahan didn’t wear the G.I. Joe ribbon, incidentally. Probably for the best, given the American military’s history with the people depicted on the sweatshirt.)
• Colts interim coach Bruce Arians is still saluting his boss.
• The Jags wore solid black.
• When the Seahawks go full scuba, it doesn’t really look that different than it looked last year, only now there’s more neon snot.
• Pewter vs. silver makes for a very nice-looking game.
• I really hope the Bills stick with the blue pants on the road. Very nice look.
• Two fans in Green Bay came up with some jack-o-lanterns that put all of ours to shame.
• During last night’s Cowboys/Falcons game, NBC ran a promo for next Sunday’s Bears/Texans game, including a photo of Brian Urlacher that had obviously been Photoshopped. Looks like their throwback typeface on the primary jersey. Odd.
One flap down: The good news, as you’ve probably figured out from the length of today’s entry, is that I can once again type with my right hand. (If you don’t know why this is noteworthy, go back and check out Friday’s entry.) The bad news is that today I’ll be busy with pre-surgery testing, tomorrow I’ll be busy with assorted Election Day stuff, and Wednesday I’ll be busy trying to finish my college hoops season-preview column for ESPN, so the rest of this week’s entries will probably be on the shorter side. (In fact, Johnny Ek may pinch-hit for me tomorrow.) You can go ahead and send in Ticker submissions as per usual, but I may not have time to get to all of them. Thanks for understanding.
Then on Thursday I’ll have surgery on my fractured wrist (assuming the coming Nor’easter storm, due to hit here late Wednesday, doesn’t force a postponement). That will cause my hand to swell up, so my typing situation will be back to square one.
I’m lucky enough never to have undergone surgery before, so I didn’t know that the doctor actually has to write out a prescription for the procedure, as you can see above. Interesting! (Insert jokes about refills and generics vs. brand names here.)
Although I can type, I can’t lift anything (like, anything, not even a sheet of paper) with my right hand, so I’m living a one-armed life, which is annoying, but whaddaya gonna do. The biggest adjustment, aside from figuring out how to carve a big hunk of meat (tricky but doable), is that I can no longer go for my daily bike ride — something I’ve been doing for over 14 years.
I knew I’d miss the endorphin rush that comes with daily exercise, plus I don’t wanna get fat. So I did something I never thought I’d do: I joined a gym.
I don’t like gyms. I’m not opposed to them, mind you, but I’ve always felt that they’re not for me. The jacked-up meatheads, the thumpa-thumpa music, the pervasive sense of passive-aggressive narcissism — not my scene. Plus I prefer to exercise outside, not inside. So it’s sort of amusing to find myself pedaling away on the stationary bike while reading a magazine and listening to a podcast, just like everyone else (only they’re all reading, like, People and Shape, and I’m reading The Believer). It’s just another punchline to the joke of my broken arm.
Election Day research project: With America’s quadrennial spasm of democracy once again upon us, it’s time to revisit one of my favorite tropes: the tendency of Election Night talking heads to wear purple neckties, purple shirts, purple dresses, and other purple attire, which they do in a largely fruitless attempt to appear non-partisan (blue + red = purple, get it?).
Here’s how you can help: If you spot any election reporter wearing this most loathsome of hues on Tuesday, please take a screen shot and then either (a) send it to me or, even better, (b) upload it and send me the URL. Broken wing willing, I’ll post the images on Wednesday.
If you’re looking for coverage of the new Astros uniforms, go back to Saturday’s entry.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Very interesting 20th-anniversary patch for the Rockies. I like the unusual shape. … Check it out — Wilt wearing a mask (great find by Jerry Wolper). … Intriguing helmet news from Leo Thompson, who writes: “Jon Falk, the equipment manager over at the University of Michigan, was interviewed on a local Michigan radio station when a question came up asking whether or not Michigan would ever change their helmets. Mr. Falk answered with something along the lines that he wanted to get have ‘shiny helmets like Notre Dame’ but that it was tough to do right now because of the specific colors of Michigan. He then went on to say that we may see something new next year.” … Joe Giza found an old swimming jacket with lots of cool patches. … Nicole Haase was at an AHL game and noticed a ref wearing wider zebra stripes than a linesman. … Bryan Molloy came up with a cool Marathon-related T-shirt design, with the proceeds going to hurricane relief. … Complete identity makeover in the works for the Reading Phillies (from Adam Brodsky). … Pink uniforms have become so commonplace on all levels — minor league, high school, whatever — that I rarely bother to mention them anymore. But Central High in Louisiana took the concept further than most teams do the other day (from Troy Gaulden). … Loads of 1969 football cards here. … Oh baby, look at these awesome 1970s women’s bowling team photos (big thanks to Thomas Langan). … Thomas White has started a blog devoted to the Pacific Coast League — lots of great photos. Recommended. … Thinking good thoughts about you, Bizkit. Hang in there.