Escapism – The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
As a college student trying to hold down two jobs, while dealing with the immense workload I receive from class and trying to recover from a torn labrum while playing at an elite level of baseball, I need to escape. The realities of our lives are not always something we need, or want, to face constantly. The reason sports are so great is it gives us a means to escape from our sometimes harsh lives so we can be joyful, taking in the greatness of live sports. Even old reruns of classic games that we’ve seen 10 times already can help us go into a fantasy world, feeling an unmatched and undefeated happiness. Sports have helped me get through injury, breakup and even death.
When I’m trying to escape from my harsh reality, the very last thing I want to think of is the treacherous, deadly wars happening around me today.
Sports is not war. War is not entertainment. War is not fun. War does not belong in sports.
Why then, is the military so incredibly celebrated in the world of sports today? So often we see teams with camouflage uniforms and other pro-military imagery draped all around the facility, playing surface, players and even the referees. Why are we constantly reminded of the terrors of war in the middle of something that’s supposed to be so positive? Is it the appeal of the alleged soldier-like mentalities that the athletes use? It can’t be. The worst an athlete has to realistically worry about while playing is failure. Striking out, throwing an interception or letting in a goal doesn’t come close to the fear of death. Imagine being half a world away and not knowing when, or if, you’ll see your loved ones again.
Every year, the NFL gives out an award to soldiers who have a strong connection to service and sports. The Pat Tillman Award is an honourable award but it forces multiple horrid consequences. The last winner of the Pat Tillman award was U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro. Del Toro was injured in Afghanistan in 2005 when he rolled over a bomb in his military vehicle. He lost most of his fingers, was burned over the majority of his body and was in a coma for three months. When he came out of the coma, he was told he’d likely never walk or breathe on his own again. We can’t take away from the sacrifice Del Toro made for his country. On the other hand, why would I want to hear about these horrors when all I’m trying to do is watch the ESPY’s? Of course they only advertise how Del Toro used sports to recover. We aren’t shown the PTSD, the horror and the endless pain he has and is likely still facing.
There is more to this blind marketing. The majority of the “military appreciation nights” and pro-military ads you may have seen on television are complete facades. Once again the NFL is at the forefront of sports in North America and they are a model example of cheap, manufactured patriotism. Rather than organic patriotism, the military has spent millions for the NFL to hold military flyovers, flag unfurlings, emotional colour guard ceremonies, enlistment campaigns and even national anthem performances, the source of oh-so much controversy today. So not only is the dreadfulness of war presented to us by these sports leagues, but they’re getting paid millions for it by the military.
Children watch these programs. We can’t raise a generation of conflict-hungry, warmongers. The senseless marketing done in sports puts us in danger of this.
The sacrifice given by the men and women in the military is incomprehensible to me. I freeze at the thought of making the sacrifice myself. Thank you to everyone who keeps me safe, while putting your own life on the line, I can never repay you.
Please, though, let’s not glorify this. Stop pushing war as a positive event into our faces for the sake of hopefully recruiting a few more soldiers. All we want to do is escape. This is not what we have sacrificed so much for. I am begging, please do not blindly fall for the senseless military marketing used by our favourite leagues. They are often getting paid for it. This isn’t what sports are about. War does not belong in sports.
– Conner Toffan, Sports Co-Editor