Thursday, April 10, 2008
Is war just baseball by other means?
Last year's Fenway flyover.
A disturbing story in the Globe yesterday pointed out that the Red Sox opening day flyover cost taxpayers $100,000 in fuel alone. What's more, it turns out the Air Force scheduled 843 flyovers last year (which, using the back of this napkin, comes to $84.3 million in fuel costs, or more than half our entire funding of the National Endowment for the Arts). The Air Force claims the flyovers count as "training missions" - but then also admits that timing a flight against "The Star Spangled Banner" really isn't much like combat. (Maybe Dick Cheney is planning to buzz a soccer match in Tehran.) The article is at its weirdest, however, when it points out that for one of the pilots, "the flyover is an honor":
"Being able to represent our military in the opening game is pretty awesome," he said.
I had an odd little frisson when I read that - the kind that comes with the perception of a cultural shift moving beneath our conscious radar. Since when was it an honor for a soldier to consort with baseball players? I always thought it was supposed to work the other way around - that athletes operated as a kind of proxy military (why else sing the national anthem before the game) rather than actual soldiers operating as proxy athletes. The ubiquitous Air Force flyover also suggests a strange, shared sense of "global branding" of American sports and entertainment - that with our economic base hollowed out, we now explicitly link our defense department to our virtual entertainment world rather than our actual homeland. A small thing, perhaps, but worth noting.