I feel the rush like everyone else when the singer belts out the “Star Spangled Banner” before the beginning of each Chicago Blackhawks hockey game. My heart races when a squadron of US Air Force fighter planes thunder over the speedway at the Indianapolis 500 race on Memorial Day. The crowd roars its approval and then settles down to watch the Super Bowl or the Daytona 500. Why do we feel a need to express our patriotism at these public events? Are we blessing the game or the race as an expression of nationalism or is this a way to amp up of the crowd and augment the excitement of the event?
I have to admit that I participate in these expressions of patriotic fervor. During the national anthem, I stand erect, heals together and snap off a salute letting everyone around me know that I’m a military veteran. While I revel in the excitement, I wonder whether we lose something in the frequency that we intone our national song. It is now played at every Friday night high school football game across the United States and at all professional sporting events. Maybe it’s too much. Certain professional athletes have used these occasions to demonstrate against the policies and practices of the US by kneeling during the playing of the anthem. The first amendment grants everyone the right to free speech and thus the permission to protest at such times. Maybe we should save the playing of the anthem for special occasions. Perhaps that would make the playing of the national anthem more special.
The military flyovers are simply too much. They only serve to militarize sport and competition. There is no obvious relationship between athletics and the military. While I honor who serve in our nation’s armed forces, I don’t feel a sense of comfort or pride hearing a roar of jet engines as a tight formation of fighters fly over the infield.