Posted by Adam Jacobi
Photo via OhioStateBuckeyes.com
When the Ohio State Buckeyes take to the field for the 2011 spring game, they'll do so with invisible heads. At least, that's the goal, anyway, if the Buckeyes' helmets are any indication. As the picture above shows, Ohio State officially unveiled its special digital camouflage helmets that'll be worn for the duration of spring practice.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will sport custom-painted helmets honoring the American military as part of the 2011 Spring Football Game tribute to America's finest on Saturday, April 23, at Ohio Stadium. That day will feature tributes to the 75th anniversary of Jesse Owens' Olympic performance in Berlin, as well as recognition of servicemen and women and Buckeye All-Americans.
The distinctive football helmets are painted in a silver, gray and black camouflage pattern registered and designed specifically for Ohio State. Each helmet will feature an American flag decal on the front and a Jesse Owens commemorative decal on the back.
Honoring Jesse Owens' accomplishments is certainly a noble aim, and OSU should in some way make note of their most famous alumnus' most famous accomplishments, but lumping him into American football's allegory of combat seems a little... well, let's say forced.
Moreover, while it's also noble to honor the troops, must we always do so by pretending to be them in some way? In the Heisman Trophy's most famous speech, Nile Kinnick said this in 1939:
I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest, and not on the battlefields of Europe. I can speak confidently and positively that the players of this country, would much more, much rather struggle and fight to win the Heisman award, than the Croix de Guerre.
What Kinnick says here is that while football resembles war in some respects, it clearly is not war, and he cherishes those differences rather than conflating the two institutions based on their similarities. War terrified him, as it terrified most people back then -- especially since war was so casualty-intensive back then. Kinnick was hardly some pacifist hippie, either; he later enlisted for the Army when the United States declared war and died during training two years later.
That sentiment has long since left college football, and Nike has dutifully stepped into the void and helped change the dynamic of the sport. Whether this means college football is simply being more honest about its roots in instructed combat or it means football is glorifying man's worst actions probably depends on one's predisposition to war in the first place. And that's a debate that'll likely go on just about forever.