A Campos View: Pro Athletes on the Battlefield

Jason Campos

As I was waiting for the 1 o’clock NFL games to kickoff last Sunday, programming on all three major networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) was interrupted with the announcements that the United States had launched its impending attack on Afghanistan by sending in aircraft and launching missiles from ships harbored in the Persian Gulf. Shortly after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Richard Myers briefed the nation on the initial military strikes, President Bush stated in a short message to America that he had given the go ahead for the military campaign against terrorism, reiterating statements he had previously made about the purpose and goals of such US military action.

I don’t know about you, but it put a solemn tone on the football games that day for myself.

In almost a daily practice, American politicians have repeatedly told the citizens of this country to go on with their lives as this situation continues. Okay, perhaps we can do that, but…

I can’t help wondering, in the case that our war against terrorism is prolonged, and I mean very prolonged, battle, can we continue the lives that we have lived? Since I am most knowledgeable in sports, I throw out a few tidbits about how the current situation might effect the world of sports.

The possibility of a draft like the one that took place during the Vietnam War is more and more likely the longer the war against terrorism is waged. In such a scenario, professional athletes and would be professional athletes might be pressed into military action. I realize that it has been said that this “war” will not be fought in a conventional manner, but that is the belief at the moment. What about a year from now? Five years? Ten Years?

How will athletes react? The group will undoubtedly split into two factions, as it has in similar situations in the past. There will be some that will refuse the call of duty and therefore be vilified, like boxer Muhammud Ali was over thirty years ago. Others will embrace the opportunity, like Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who served not once, but twice, in World War II and Korean War as a Marine pilot. Williams has proudly claimed that his military service is one of the things that he is most proud of in his life.

The situation was dire enough in World War II that Major League baseball was extremely close to being shut down. If our government needs more able-bodied personal, professional sports leagues may have to send its players off to war. Although I ardently hope that this situation will be resolved so that it would not now come to pass, I see it as real possibility. Young superstars like firstbaseman Jason Giambi and quarterback Peyton Manning may be called to serve in the military.

The other major issue has to do with the Olympic games. During World War II, the Olympic games were canceled twice because of the war, the 1940 games in Tokyo and the 1944 games in London. Since the Olympics are such high profiled events, they are a prime target for acts of terrorism and other violent incidents to take place. The Atlanta games had a bomb go off in Olympic Park, injuring about a hundred people. With the Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah in little over four months, the stage is set for something catastrophic to happen. Hopefully, all necessary security measures will be taken and nothing bad transpires.