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Iraq War and Domestic Sport

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The war in Iraq has had far reaching social ramifications, some of which will take many years, perhaps even generations, to correct. One realm of society that has been affected is the world of sports. Usually, sport and war are together in the context of sport stepping in to prevent or resolve war (eg. Peaceplayers Int’l). That is not the context we will discuss here, instead, we will discuss the connections between American sport and the war in Iraq. There are direct connections, such as the story of Pat Tillman, and indirect connections, like the oft-used satellite broadcast of troops watching the game on a base somewhere in Iraq.

The story of Pat Tillman is a sad one, a successful NFL player killed by friendly fire while on patrol (granted, this was in Afghanistan). The fact that Tillman was killed by friendly fire may be horrific and raise lots of questions about operations that fateful day, but the issue we ask is why a successful professional athlete was at war in the first place. There are approximately 3,400 professional athletes in the major sports leagues in America, so to be one of those 3,400 is quite an accomplishment (Fort). Although Tillman was no Lebron James or A-Rod, he was still in a position that millions of people envy. However the masses that did not know Tillman personally did not know that he was always looking for the next challenge or that he took the attacks of 9/11 very personally (Carter). Tillman, like other professional athletes, was a strong individual, and when he set his mind to something, he was in 100%. The same values and skills that made him a successful athlete are the same values and skills that made him an elite soldier. Pat Tillman was obviously strong and athletic, but he also had leadership skills, had a strong sense of teamwork, worked well under pressure, and was of, “high moral character,” and last but not least, was extremely patriotic. Thus it should come as no surprise that any professional athlete would volunteer to serve their country in a time of war, as an athlete is very much like a soldier.

Whenever American troops are sent somewhere, regardless of if the public agrees with the deployment or not, the accepted notion is that we the people must support our troops. Since this is the prevailing notion, the media must be sure to capitalize on it, lest they be seen as not supporting our troops. One of the many things sports media outlets do in this regard is setup a place for troops to watch the game while overseas and then throw the broadcast to a live feed of the troops watching said game. This allows soldiers who would normally be following their favorite team at home a chance to catch up and escape, at least virtually, from the warzone. This luxury benefits the armed forces, as it serves to strengthen the resolve

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