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ESPN Analyst Doesn’t Want National Anthem Played Before Games For Impressively Dumb Reasons

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Around the Horn used to be a good show. I’m not saying that it’s a bad show only after this dumb little opinion, wherein panelist Kevin Blackistone claimed he wanted the National Anthem (and all military imagery, etc.) out of sports. The show is full of dumb little opinions. I’m not offended or anything, and Around the Horn has been unwatchable for a while anyway. I think the 30 Rock cutaway for “Sports Shouting” is what really ruined it for me.

That cutaway and the asinine opinions constructed by ESPN producers to appeal to the sensibilities of middle school boys just getting home from school and unemployed men — that ruined it for me, too.

Also, I haven’t given a crap about what Kevin Blackistone thinks since, well, forever. Even when I liked the show I was always a bigger fan of J.A. Adande, Tim Cowlishaw, Jackie MacMullan, and Jay Mariotti…kidding. So the guy believes the National Anthem has no place in sports because it’s a “war anthem”? Cool. He’s a person paid way too much money to give soundbites on TV. Soundbites that the panelists, Blackistone included, don’t even have much, if any, conviction behind a lot of the time. Seriously, they discuss the topics before the show and divvy up which sides they want to take. While legitimate opinions do surface on the show, and I believe Blackistone was being sincere to a degree in this instance, it’s just as often that Around the Horn panelists are saying shit just to say it.

When asked about Northwestern’s new ultra-patriotic football uniforms that are to be worn in honor of Veteran’s Day and wounded veterans, Kevin Blackistone, a Northwestern alumnus, said he was not a fan of them. Fair, he’s far from the only person who wasn’t wild about the Under Armor ‘Merica alternates, and as an alum he has more right to criticize the school than anyone. However, it was Blackistone’s doubling down on ALL military inclusion in sporting events that was odd.

Here’s the transcript:

If you sell this along with me, you should also be selling the rest of the military symbolism embrace of sports. Whether it’s the singing of a war anthem to open every game, whether it’s going to get a hotdog and being able to sign up for the Army at the same time, whether it’s the NFL’s embrace of the mythology of the Pat Tillman story. It has been going on in sports since the first National Anthem was played in the World Series back in 1917. It’s time for people to back away.


You are conflating a war anthem with a simple game and when you have military flyovers and all the other military symbolism that goes on in sports I think you’ve got a problem.


Secondly, this strikes me as soundbite city. Not wanting the military involved in sporting events is an easy, and more importantly, conspicuous opinion to take, even if it might be an unpopular one, because all it really requires is for Blackistone to play devil’s advocate and let the attention rain down upon him. Do I believe Blackistone isn’t wild about his alma mater’s uniforms? Yeah, sure. Do I believe he actually wants the military out of sports? Eh. More likely he’s JUST ASKING QUESTIONS. Yeah, he went there. What now, AMERICA? CAN YOU HANDLE IT!?!?!?! I’m sure plenty of people will apply labels as ridiculous as the one I jokingly gave him in the picture above, not realizing that he mostly just said this for attention. That’s what ESPN and shows like Around the Horn do. Ever heard of Skip Bayless?

The United States is far from the only country that plays its anthem prior to sporting events. To apologize for where and when the events our anthem describes takes place is a load of PC bullshit. It’s not like the song is celebrating the Battle of Wounded Knee. The Star Spangled Banner is no more a war anthem than The English Patient is a war film. The latter is a love story that takes place during a war, and the former is, well, the same, really. And both leave me a crying, fully erect mess.

On another note, military flyovers fucking rule. B2 Stealth Bombers, which are all based out of Missouri, used to fly over Mizzou games, and holy fuck it was the coolest thing ever. That billion dollar UFO death machine would just glide silently over the stadium as everybody, every time, stared in awe. You never get used to seeing a B2 fly over you. Ever.

But yeah, sure, let’s take the military out of sports because, “Oh no it’s wrong to celebrate war!” Never mind that this isn’t even close what’s happening, at all. Could it be misinterpreted as such? Sure. But when is it ever a good idea to cater to the people too stupid to understand what’s actually going on? Actually, Blackistone wouldn’t agree with that statement, he works for ESPN, so it’s his job to do just that. Regardless, you aren’t attending the Roman Coliseum, watching slaves put on a “battle” with Carthaginians or barbarian hordes and reveling the slaughter of enemies. Fans are celebrating the service of their countrymen, and the freedoms that they protect. That’s the key word: protect. Opinions on our most recent wars may vary, but no American, pro or anti-war, is celebrating the return of “conquering heroes,” and no American is celebrating war.

It’s not like they’re handing out these at games.



A tipster in one of Blackistone’s classes at UMD has informed me that the journalist has been stating this opinion “all semester.” So, while this wasn’t an off the cuff remark to be edgy on Around the Horn itself, the whole thing still strikes me as a devil’s advocate type position to take. Is it wrong to question things? No, of course not. We should question things like celebrating the military, even if it is pretty annoying and the conclusions reached are way off the mark.

h/t National Review


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