Notre Dame Football as a Platform for State Iconography

That’s not Touchdown Jesus between the uprights. Flyovers have become an exhilarating but unquestioned part of game day activities, calling into question the proper line between patriotism and militarism.  In the age of drone aircraft, one wonders as well whether fans and alumni would celebrate without skepticism unmanned fighter jet flyovers.  

In the fourth quarter of the Michigan State football game on September 17th South Bend Police Sergeant Tim McCarthy warmly incanted that physicians AND drivers are similar in that they both need patients.

If traffic safety requires patience, patriotism calls for reticence.

Following close losses to South Florida and Michigan, the convincing victory over MSU was welcome. But using the game to memorialize the tenth anniversary of 9/11 raised disconcerting questions.

From the fighter jet flyover to the flag waving musical selections such as God Bless the USA, the emotional programming ran thick. The information campaign continued awkwardly after the game under the roof of the Basilica where New York Archbishop Dolan surreptitiously appeared as guest celebrant and high priest of patriotism.  His presence endorsed the official narrative of the last ten years, and in his sermon he connected the events of 9/11 to the gospel reading.

Carrying out the 9/11 theme a week AFTER the anniversary (9/10 was an AWAY game) especially begged the question of motive and why ND had such a responsibility.

New developments continue to challenge the official narrative of the events of that day, calling for skepticism toward the interpretations and policies that have resulted. This September, 9/11 Congressional Joint Inquiry Chairman and former Senator Bob Graham entered new evidence into the public arena of the presence of multiple Saudi handlers in the country at the time of the attacks as well as a cover-up of such presence. On the 10th anniversary, pronouncements such as these raise non-trivial questions.  Could the FBI have taken different actions to stop the attacks?  Why did we invade Afghanistan when Saudi Arabia’s direct role had been known from the start?  One would expect the university’s programming choices to reflect new developments as history becomes more clear.

In an earlier post, I recalled ND President Fr. Hesburgh’s prescient warning in 1966 that ND football should be bounded by the proper “emphasis.” That constraint should seem to apply in regards to the extent to which the program is used to mass market political ideas to influence public opinion — public opinion in the stadium seats and in the millions of viewer homes.

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