Sports in a time of war

The Oscars gave us a subdued, “more appropriate” ceremony. Primetime programming has been interspersed with war updates. And, rather than seeing the NCAA Tournament on CBS as scheduled the first two days after the attacks began, the only thing that could have been perceived as “March Madness” would have been the bombing of Baghdad.

It’s obvious the war with Iraq has changed how we’ve seen entertainment in the recent weeks. This change poses a major question: Is entertainment, in particular sports, necessary? Although the sentiment that we should be focused on our troops is nice, it isn’t necessarily a good one, and there is some precedence to it.

World War II had similar question raised. Major League Baseball had seriously considered shutting down the league during the war. It was at the time, however, that Franklin Roosevelt asked the leagues to continue playing. He recognized the ability of sports to raise morale throughout the country.

They did continue with Roosevelt’s urging, and some new leagues were created at the time, like the All-American Girl’s Baseball League made known to this generation in the movie, “A League of Their Own.”

The league (along with counterparts like the NFL) had a decent reason to shut down. Baseball saw many of its great players, like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller all head overseas to fight. The NFL had major problems just filling their rosters.

The problem was so bad for the NFL that the Rams suspended operations for two years and two seasons featured a merged franchise (the Eagles and Steelers one year, and the Steelers and Cardinals the next).

Losing players isn’t a problem for the league at this point in time. So far, only one player has enlisted after Sept. 11, the Arizona Cardinals’ Pat Lassiter.

The only halfway decent concern that sports organizations should have is the threat of terrorism, but that concern has been around for a while now. It’s not going to just get worse because the war has begun.

I think we should take a page out of FDR’s book, and urge these leagues to continue on as scheduled. There’s only so much war coverage that viewers can watch without it either becoming monotonous, causing insanity or both. I know that the soldiers are busy, but hearing news from home would be good for morale. With 99 percent of our news focused on the war with Iraq, a subject they know quite well, they need entertainment outlets like sports or music.