Archive for July 25, 2008

By Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

By Gregory Shamus, Getty Images

I was very interested to read the the Detroit Lions 7th round rookie pick in the 2008 NFL draft, Army safety Mr Caleb Campbell will now not realise his NFL dream anytime soon as he has been called back into service for his country.

No longer will he defend his team from pigskin bombs from the likes of Tom Brady or Tony Romo, he will now defend bombs that kill.

It is not for me to decide the rights or wrongs of Army college graduates wishing to pursue careers in sports, and I know for sure that in the USA there is certainly mixed opinions on whether Campbell should have been drafted in the NFL at all, the whole issue has however made me think.

As someone who knows quite a  a lot about NFL history and also someone who has lived in England for 33 years and followed football (or soccer as you people over the pond call it) I cant help but contrast the vast differences between the USA and the UK when it comes to both sports and academia and sports and military service.

I know that the Army, Navy, and Air Force in the USA have college American football rivalries that are awesome, and the Army v Navy game is up there as an annual spectacle with a Rose Bowl or a National NCAA Championship. I also know that legendary NFL superstar and Cowboys former quarterback Roger Staubach served in the Navy. Recent NFL starters including Chad Henning was in fact serving in London, England, when he found ot he could play in the NFL.

When Pat Tillman RIP left the Arizona Cardinals to serve in Iraq it was seen an a bold move and I for one was saddened when news filtered back that he was killed on duty. Not for one minute can I imagine selfish money grabbing egotists such as Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Arsenal’s Emanuel Adabeyor suddenly waking up one day and saying they will serve for the Portuguese Army or the Togolese Air Force.

Over here in the United Kingdom there is no equivalent national obsession with sports in the UK Army or Navy or Royal Air Force. Whilst there may well be fiercely contested tug-of-war, rugby or even rowing contests between the UK Army and the UK Navy, it certainly is not televised and it is not the ‘water-cooler’ gossip of the offices up and down the country that week.

A scene from the Superbowl 18 months ago

A scene from the Superbowl 18 months ago

As a Brit who has visited the USA four times (to San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Washington DC and Orlando) I have seen first hand how people in the USA use sporting events, and even a Shamu show at Sea World to pay tribute the the armed forces. Giant stars ands stripes flags draped over the field at kickoff, standing ovations and tributes to fallen heroes, and even a round of applause to all former or current members of the military before Shamu does his thing in the pool.

In England we have one minute silences to former English football players who die, but I cannot recall a large sporting event where everyone is given a St Georges flag (England) or a Union Jack (United Kingdom) to wave as we all stand there teary eyed paying tribute to the Parachute Regiment or the SAS.

In fact it may surprise you that there have been displays of complete disrespect to soldiers in the United Kingdom. Check here  or here for just two examples – something I’m sure would be seen as unforgivable in the USA.

If you are in the UK do you think we disrespect our own military ? If you are in the USA do you think that you pay enough respect to the military or even too much – would love to get opinions from both sides of the pond …….