Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Military Mondays

What's with the Mets' camouflage uniforms and caps?  Given their excellent play of late I don't think it is in anticipation of a frontal assault by disgruntled fans.  And they aren't much of a running team, so I don't think it is a strategic move to hide their baserunners to make stealing bases easier. 

No, it's Military Monday.

Beginning with the 2014 season, the Mets decided to honor U.S. servicemen and servicewomen at Monday home games by giving them free tickets and retail discounts, and sponsoring community outreach events   And, for those games, Met players and coaches don military-themed uniforms.  (The San Diego Padres do something similar for Sunday home games and all teams do it on Memorial Day.) 

Now, given the marketing prerogatives of major league teams who now sport a ridiculous number of uniform color combinations in order to sell more shirts, caps and jerseys to fans, it is hard to make an argument about the purity of the game.  But, putting players in battle fatigues takes things too far.

There is a difference between honoring members of the armed services and glorifying the military.  Mets ownership already does the former.  They have demonstrated their sincere and deep commitment by supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, arranging for players to visit VA hospitals, and helping found the Welcome Back Veterans, a program that provides treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Players wearing faux military uniforms with American flag decals prominently displayed on the shoulder doesn't feel like it is about supporting our troops; it feels jingoistic.  This is particularly unseemly given that more than a quarter of Major League players are from countries other than the U.S. of A.-- some of which have been invaded by our military and exploited by our government.

And I'm not sure it does honor to the military, anyway.  If anything, baseball players looking like make-believe soldiers trivializes military service and feels more like a marketing ploy.  Sure it is a brave act to face a 90-plus mile per hour fastball with nothing more than 32-ounce wooden bat.  But it is hardly analogous to facing the enemy in a war zone.

We already have the National Anthem before every game -- a tradition that became entrenched during the Second World War to make sure the fans didn't question the patriotism of the players who weren't fighting in the war.  The anthem is often accompanied by the presentation of military colors and a military jet flyover.  And, after 9/11, because one song did not seem sufficient for players and fans to express their love of and loyalty to the United States, Irving Berlin's God Bless America began to be sung during the 7th Inning Stretch, either instead of or in addition to Take Me Out To The Ballgame.  It is still sung at many ballparks on Sundays, holidays and in the post-season. 

Isn't that enough?

If baseball teams are going to celebrate honorable professions, then I would like to see them pay tribute to those who devote their lives to protecting and helping people and improving society in other ways too.  How about we have the players dress up like teachers or public defenders or paramedics or social workers?   


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