Independence Day Ethics Dunce: Sports Illustrated Illustrates How Too Many Americans Regard The Nation’s Veterans

McCain tweet

Sports Illustrated tweeted out the above image and message that linked to a story by “Extra Mustard.” That masterpiece noted that

Senator John McCain attended Tuesday night’s Dodgers–Diamondbacks game and had a chance to grab a souvenir in the seventh inning.Dodgers’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins fouled a ball over the backstop that went bouncing into the lap of the senior senator from Arizona, but McCain couldn’t get his hands on the ball. But McCain deserves a break from critics: As you can see the ball was approaching from a very awkward angle. Still, this photo from Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo does not make the former presidential candidate look particularly athletic.

Apparently neither the reporter nor any of his/her/its editors were aware that McCain has extremely limited use of his arms as a result of being tortured as a North Vietnam prisoner of war. Both arms were broken by his captors and left untreated for so long that he was permanently handicapped, as anyone who watched even a little bit of his 2008 campaign for President could hardly fail to notice. McCain is also 78 years old, not that respect for seniors who have spent their lives in public service could be expected to be a factor in SI’s commentary.

Would any of the magazine’s staff attending a game dare to openly mock a disabled serviceman who didn’t catch a foul ball?  Probably not, since the likelihood of some fans of the National Pastime taking offense and throwing a beer in their smug, ignorant faces would be a real risk. Ah, but from the safety of an office  in New York City and hiding behind a pseudonym—of course, Extra Mustard might be the jerk’s real name, I suppose—it’s easy to insult an elderly U.S. Senator, military veteran and war hero for the consequences of the wounds he sustained in the service of his nation.

Eventually SI was tipped off to its error, and it quietly removed the last sentence. No apology, of course. Such is the historical, cultural, political and ethical ignorance of a substantial portion of our national media.


Pointer: Newsbusters

43 thoughts on “Independence Day Ethics Dunce: Sports Illustrated Illustrates How Too Many Americans Regard The Nation’s Veterans

        • As a newly-minted 70 year-old guy, I can attest that looking athletic is, at best, difficult and at worst, dangerous.

          • Back in the early 60s I caught back-to-back line drives off the bat of Bob Allison. Sitting in the left field grandstand at Fenway and in those days you could sit in an entire section and be alone. In between innings Allison signed the balls. They stung, but not that bad. hell….I was 20 and use to “hardball.”

            For several years I had season tickets in Section 10 and Box 97. Near the RF foul pole. Age impacts. This was a desirable target area for foul balls and I avoided them. A few very close calls.

            So for McCain to even attempt it I give him his props.

  1. SI was actually being sensitive to the desire of handicapped people to fit in with anyone else. It’s like parking spaces: handicapped people, they don’t even want to park there! They wanna be treated just like anybody else! That’s why, those spaces are always empty.

    • Sadly, in this area, there are many who park in them who do not have the tags. Especially beside a local mall restaurant and separate store where many seniors with mobility issues go and can’t park closer than a football field.

  2. This is from a magazine that once named a horse their “Athlete of The Year.” I believe it was Secretariat. Personally I thought Mr. Ed was robbed.

  3. McCain was a losing candidate for President and is a Republican, so there is a little more room for mocking him in the unwritten journalistic code. In a world where an actor who has spent decades coasting on a relatively small part in a big franchise can call a black Supreme Court Justices he does not agree with a “clown in blackface” and get away with it because he is gay this should not come as a surprise.

  4. It’s even more of a rotten gotcha to trash a decent patriotic citizen (since decency and patriotism are prime things to mock these days).

    The suppressed premise here is that it is expected for anyone to get a foul ball.

    Except that would be probably the complete opposite of the truth. I’d submit that 95% of people would look like uncoordinated clowns in the exact same situation and those people wouldn’t have the same kind of life experiences as McCain. Hell, 95% of people look awkward standing there doing NOTHING.

  5. To be fair, the journalist could well have been ignorant of the injury issue, like so many of his ilk, and so only erred in disregarding the effects of age.

    This is also a test of the comment blocking.

  6. I agree with everything but the designation of hero. If he is infact a hero then everone who was held in the “Hanoi Hilton” was a hero and also deserved the CMO. IMO he recieved the CMO because his name was McCain and the McCains were Navy Royalty. That, unlike his father and grandfather, he never made flag rank says more about his character and accomplishments then his CMO. That judgment was confirmed by his membership in the “Keating Five.”

    • The Keating Five episode was unfair to McCain…he was pretty definitively cleared of intent or actual wrongdoing. He did some inquiries for a major donor who turned out to be a crook; he later agreed that it had the appearance of impropriety and was wrong. Literally any Congressman is vulnerable to the same scenario…this was moral luck in a rotten system that has no alternatives.

      Accounts vary, but McCain refused to give up his colleagues under torture, and turned down an opportunity for release in favor of other prisoners. The latter all by itself deserves hero status, as does anyone who places his or her life in mortal danger in service of the United States of America.

      • He received the MOH for his conduct while a POW (CMO is a common and understandable misnomer)? I didn’t know that. I didn’t think anyone had won it under those circumstances, the stringent criteria usually including armed combat at the time of the cited action. Of course, I’m not suggesting he didn’t deserve it.

          • Absolutely, I would concur that exemplary conduct under such circumstances is heroic. I’m mainly addressing his receiving that award while a POW, and the possibility of some sort of nepotism. Like I said, though, I wouldn’t make that accusation because I know nothing of this particular matter.

      • Of course he turned down the offer of relase. Accepting parole is a court martial offense. The idea that anyone who places thier life in mortal danger deserves hero status makes the idea of a hero meaningless it means that mearly doing ones duty is heroic and that is BS.

        • It’s not BS, not when one assumes the duty. The fact and the abstract of military service and warfare are very different. By your definition, every decorated hero is just doing his duty—my father was decorated three times, and argued each time that he was just doing his duty. You can either regard the vast majority of humans who are not able to rise to extraordinary challenges as cowards, or we can mark those who do as heroes. How many soldiers were court martialed in Vietnam for submitting under enemy torture? None. The military can set standards very high and should: it wants all to be heroes. Studies indicate most soldiers don’t fire off a shot in combat. Luckily, both sides are similar in that respect.

        • “Hmm, let’s see: court martial, staying to get tortured, court martial, staying in the Hanoi Hilton to get tortured….” I’d say that if self-interest is the only metric, the answer is obvious.

          • Exactly. “Of course he stayed around to get his arms broken, get no medical treatment and stay in a tiger cage and get beaten daily—otherwise he would be tried in the brutal US and either kicked out of the service or have to spend time in a US military prison, and THAT would be too horrible to bear!!!”

              • C’mon, man; use your imagination. I wouldn’t doubt the prisoners all believed they probably wouldn’t leave there alive. I’m not a huge McCain fan either, but I give credit where it’s due.

                • I guess what I don’t like is the fact that he was the only one to get the CMO. Why didn’t he refuse it utill all the others were awareded it? What I think is wrong here as the was singled out as the deserving one. So rather then disrespecting and disparaging the honor of McCain I should be venting about the organization and process that awarded him the medal. Well I leared something from the exchange and thanks for pushing untill I ran out of rationalzations..

                  • I definitely see your point, and if this is indeed the case, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s wrong. To me, the Medal of Honor is sacred, as I’m sure it is in the hearts of all who know it’s history and meaning, and any sort of trivialization of it is blasphemy. I will make a point of looking into it and commenting further as soon as I post this. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of promising follow-through, and forgetting to do so, as Charlesgreen will attest.

                  • Okay, I did some probing, and it turns out that his highest award, ranking third after the MOH, is the Silver Star.

                    The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the SILVER STAR MEDAL to
                    COMMANDER JOHN S. MC CAIN III
                    UNITED STATES NAVY
                    for service as set forth in the following
                    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 27 October to 8 December 1967. His captors, completely ignoring international agreements, subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, which was attracting international attention. By his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.

                    For the President,
                    J. William Middendorf
                    Secretary of the Navy
                    Signed at Naval Air Station, Cubi Point,
                    Republic of the Philippines
                    I didn’t think he had won the MOH. That would have indeed been wrong. It’s given “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty”, the definition of which is very precise, and refusing offers of parole as a POW, heroic though it is, simply isn’t “above and beyond” for the purposes of the medal. The reason I didn’t think he had been awarded it was that it would have carried more fame and prestige than anything else he accomplished before, during, or after earning it, and the fact that veterans would be going absolutely batshit if the medal had been trifled with and tarnished in this manner.

    • Worth exploring Orin, thank-you.

      It also is worth noting that the distinction between the MOH and the Silver Star was sometimes arbitrary. In some divisions recommendations for the MOH were automatically kicked down to the Silver Star, and the Silver to the Bronze, to avoid medal bloat and to keep the standards high. In other divisions, they were not. My dad never talked about his Silver Star, but after his death I found the citation and supporting documentation. During night combat, a truck containing four men drive into a flooded area and sank. Dad, who had been a life guard, repeatedly dived under the water, in nearly full gear, to find survivors, under fire. All of his comrades perished. He was recommended by his CO for a MOH; another letter I found from the brass said that if he had actually found anyone alive, or if he himself had been killed, he would have been awarded it. Since Dad survived, it was “just” a Silver Star.

      Moral luck!!

  7. The photo was an excellent opportunity for a little light, harmless and completely non-political humor. It seems that Sports Illustrated can’t get anything right anymore if it’s not wearing a bikini!

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