It’s okay to cheer

Allied forces attacked selected sites in Baghdad Thursday as U.S. ground forces shelled enemy positions in the southern part of Iraq. Television and radio news reports were all over the action as the war to disarm Saddam Hussein began in full.

A cursory check of home appliance and electronics stores showed a majority of the customers glued to the television screens. It was the same in restaurants, bars and offices Thursday afternoon. But they weren’t watching Wolf Blitzer or listening to dispatches from Peter Arnett.

Most people were tuned into Jim Nance and other CBS Sports personalities covering the NCAA basketball tournament which got under way yesterday in cities across the country. The first round games of the 64-team tournament, which were switched to cable to accommodate network war coverage, take place simultaneously. Wall-to-wall basketball is fun to watch.

Some viewers would turn to the news channels or networks during commercials for updates on the war.

This nation’s obsession with sports culminates every spring into what we call “March Madness.” Many sports fans on Thursday were scratching their heads asking themselves, “Should we be doing this?”

This is usually a dilemma during times of war. Is sports relevant?

There was debate last week on whether the NCAA tournament should have been postponed or whether we should open the baseball season at the end of the month. There have been no plans to postpone these events and rightfully so.

Americans being Americans watching their favorite sports teams in actions should in no way be interpreted as disloyalty to the troops. The Super Bowl went on as scheduled in 1991 and the troops applauded. Canceling sporting events, or even the Academy Awards, does nothing to help a war effort. War is a terrible thing, but life goes on.

When soldiers, sailors and Marines are deployed overseas, one of the favorite times of day is when sports scores come in from home. Our fighting men and women have their own favorite teams and keeping up with them, despite the horrible prospects of war, is a morale booster. In fact, it’s a pretty good bet that many of the troops heading into Iraq have copies of their NCAA tournament brackets tucked away in their gear.

So it is okay to cheer our favorite teams and enjoy sports with our friends and loved ones. It’s what we do in America. This enthusiasm in no way dilutes our cheers for the troops.

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