Heroes Day Honors 9/11 with Class, not Force


By Paul M. Banks

In the eight years since 9/11/2001, we’ve seen numerous personalities from all across the media and entertainment spectrum make awkward (and often distasteful) attempts to capitalize on the tragedy. Rudy Giuliani entered the 2008 primaries as the presumptive GOP nominee, but his disastrous and ill-fated campaign was so shameless and ghoulish, I really thought he would have done “victory laps” around Ground Zero, had he won.

But the era of crass marketing the calamity has passed, and today we decide how the day will be routinely embraced each year. College Football, a sport with deep historical and developmental ties to the military, is the perfect place to look. After all, “national defense” is a phrase most people associate with 9/11.

2008 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald placed the following Facebook status update on his page, the night before his first  game after 9/11.

“God bless everyone impacted by the 9/11 attacks. We will NEVER FORGET! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families. Tomorrow is Hero’s Day here at NU- we will play to honor all of our troops around the world! GOD SPEED!”

He also opened his post game press conference by stating

“On the heels of 9/11 it was Heroes Day today. Our entire program would like to lift our thoughts and prayers up for those impacted by 9/11 and to our troops defending us throughout the country. Last year we had a pen pal, an email pal that sent us an American flag from Afghanistan that was flown over the Air Force base the last time the President was there.”pat-fitzgerald0308

The Heroes Day promotion consisted of honoring NU alums in the military, and free admission for all armed service and public safety officials. It was essentially more marketing geared to help the network which broadcasts most of Northwestern’s games, the Big Ten Network. The channel’s primary sponsor for football contests is the United States Marine Corps. The overt celebration of the military and militarism seemed to be exactly what it was- a sales pitch. It’s a “free market” whether you buy in or not is up to you. Which tells you how much progress we’ve made as a country since 2001: you can support your country any way you see fit, as a patriot or a jingoist.

You can fly the flag quietly, fly it boldly as a rank nationalist, or not fly it at all. I could not say the same after in the first few anniversaries of 9/11. In the earlier part of this decade, similar military recruiting promotions were forced down our throats. And if you disapproved, you were deemed “with the terrorists.” The gridiron has traditionally been a good place to find the most hawkish members of our population.

General Douglas A. MacArthur, National Football Foundation Founder once said

“Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.” However, in 2009, if you want to remain on the friendly field, that’s ok too!