It was a snowy pre-winter Monday night here in Western New York, and I was all tuckered out watching the quintessential American pastime “Monday Night Football.” Last weeks matchup between the hard-nosed San Francisco 49ers and the somewhat hapless Washington Redskins. It might have been the lackluster play, or it might have been the shameless attempt at understanding Washington owner Daniel Snyder pulled, but I was spurned to write about what I was thinking about.
In between the first and second quarter of the miserable game, three Navajo “Code Talker” veterans were applauded on the field for their service in World War II. For those who do not know, the Code Talkers were instrumental in maintaining an unbreakable code of communication for the US effort in the Pacific theater. The appreciation for their service was deserved and appropriate, but I have no doubt that the public relations department decided it would be a good idea to outfit them in Redskin gear emblazoned with the emblem of a red-faced tribal Indian.
The 49ers represent their own slice of history as they are the culmination of American culture, Manifest Destiny, our conquest from east to west. A remembrance of the hurried gold rush that swept across California in 1849. Our obsession with gold and encapsulating the continent from east to west led to the destruction of an entire indigenous culture. The very same indigenous people paraded out at halftime in “remembrance” of their service. American history boiled down on the gridiron—devoid of all real significance or meaning.
No doubt the forcible relocation of the “Redskins” was a consequence of our relentless pursuit of land and that glimmering metal. As I witness grown men wage battle on the field for teams of Redskins and 49ers I wonder—am I the only one thinking about American history while watching football?