What to make of Super Bowl LII

This evening promises to be another great victory for the New England Patriots. 

Growing up in the Greater Boston area, my earliest memory of football was probably Super Bowl XX, which the Patriots lost to the Chicago Bears 46–10.  This was also the first Super Bowl I ever watched.

The next Super Bowl featuring the Patriots was 2001, XXXVI.  I watched this one in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with a friend of mine from Waltham.  It was a great feeling, watching the Patriots win their first ever Super Bowl.  The build up had been intense, seeing Brady take over from Bledsoe mid-season. Somehow, I can remember more people pulling for the Patriots at that time, most likely as it was so soon after 9-11 and there was some attachment to them by the country (I thought.)

Next, Super Bowl XXXVII, 2003 and I was aboard USS Kearsarge, part of Task Force Tarawa on our way to Iraq.  Patriots weren’t in it.  We were somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea, I really don’t remember much of it. I definitely had other things on my mind.

2004, Super Bowl XXXVIII, another great victory for the Patriots.  I was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba this time.  I was there with Marines on the fence line, guarding the naval base.  I missed most of it, but I can remember that there was a National Guard unit from Massachusetts in Camp Delta, and every time the Patriots scored, there was a great cheer that was audible on the virtual silence of the fence perimeter.

2005 Super Bowl XXXIX.  I was in Afghanistan this time.  Patriots weren’t in it.  I really didn’t care.  I had lots of other things going on.  But, I did watch EVERY game of the baseball World Series with another fellow Bostonian, an US Army Warrant officer from Weymouth, and caught the break of the curse of the Bambino.

2006 and 2007, I was living in the United Kingdom, and I suppose lucky to not be on a deployment at that time.  I didn't watch them.  The Patriots weren’t in the Super Bowl, and NFL football still hadn’t quite caught on as yet in the UK as it seems to have done today.

2008, Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots lost to the New York Giants. I was in Iraq again. I was based at a location in Anbar Province, a Combat Outpost (COP) in Rawah. We had the game on as I recall, but I had to miss most of it. I did catch the amazing last minute touchdown catch that won it for the Giants.  I had it better than many other Marines, some in pretty isolated spots with very few amenities. 

I left the active duty Marine Corps in September 2008, and I really didn’t honestly have much interest in catching these games, except again in 2012 with Super Bowl XLVI, another loss for the Patriots against the Giants again.

Moving to the UK later in 2012, I once again made a point of watching the Super Bowl again, and was pleased to see XLIX and LI work out for the Patriots.

This year I will be watching again in the UK.  I have some editing to do on my latest chapter before turning in to my supervisors.  I will be up a bit late so I plan to watch it.

I will be interested to see what happens for the Patriots this year against the Eagles, and I have been pleased to see a bit of banter between the Old North Church, Boston, and the Betsy Ross House, in Philly in what has become to be known as the Super Bowl #museumwars.

Final thought.  It has been pretty disheartening, though not surprising, to see football enter politics the way it has this past year.  Some NFL players, since last season, have famously taken a knee during the playing of the national anthem protesting racial inequality and police brutality.  It has sparked a lot of comments, both for and against.  Those taking offence at this, claim these actions are not only disrespectful to the country, but also to the military. I have my own thoughts on it.

It is disrespectful.  It is also an act of great courage. 

These are conflicting views, but I can explain. 

As a veteran, and someone who has always had respect for my country and the flag, I find it hard to see these acts as anything but disrespectful.  But I can plainly see the context and rationale behind it.  What is more, why shouldn’t football players be able to make a stand, using the best platform they have, to make a statement about what is a grave social injustice?  Sports figures are often criticized for their poor behaviour and life choices off the field, as they are “bad role models” for youths and others. But making a stand for social justice, that is something they can be admired for.

What I find more disrespectful, is the manipulation of the veteran narrative to suit political ends and to support distasteful views on racial inequality and violence.  What is more, the military makes an oath to the Constitution of the United States to uphold the rights and civil liberties it enshrines – disrespecting the flag is one of them. 

I started this post of mentioning all the places I was deployed overseas with the Marines where I might have seen or missed the Super Bowl.  Much is made about what the troops are up to, and there is always a camera shot of guys and gals in uniform watching the game some place.  I can tell you, for many it is a luxury, and many more Marines I worked with did not have the opportunity.  Most frankly didn’t care, they had more important jobs to do.

That some of those who are quick to invoke the “disrespect of the flag is disrespect of the troops”, have themselves never volunteered to serve in the armed forces themselves, or perhaps knowingly shirked that duty when they might have done so, is another distasteful irony. 

You won’t see me take a knee (though I wish perhaps I had the courage to do so), but you won’t see me criticize someone who chooses to do so for good reasons.  Better for us all to keep listening, keep an open mind, and be patient with one another.