SportsCenter Out of the Middle East!

Has it come to this? Did SportsCenter really broadcasting this week from Kuwait? Are we inhaling our nightly dose of baseball, banter and “booyah” from a set designed by the US Armed Forces? Is the SportsCenter stage really designed to look like a bunker, replete with camouflage netting, anchors’ desks made out of sandbags and a Bradley tank?

Oh yes it has. Ideally Sports Center should be safe space from the drumbeat of war like “home base” in a game of tag. It should be the one spot on the cable dial where we are not having this immoral, and, now according to Kofi Annan, “illegal” occupation pushed down our throats like a new line of Happy Meals.

But no.

As one newspaper in Virginia chortled with glee, “Booyah! ESPN joins the battle!” (Yes Virginia, there is a military industrial complex.)

Baseball Tonight commentator Rob Dibble accepted the perils of their battle mission to Camp Arfijan in Kuwait saying with the solemnity of Patton, “I know [ESPN talking heads] are risking our lives but it was the least we could do.”

Who could possibly be behind this shameless synergy of sports and scuds? Sing it with me: ‘M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.,

Leave it to ESPN,s parent company Disney and their rodent in chief Michael Eisner to spice up our sports with right wing rat poison.

The same Disney that hired that elfin epitome of athletic grace Rush Limbaugh to comment on the NFL; the same Disney that refused to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11 because it was “too political”; the same Disney that never met a union it wouldn,t bust, took the flagship show on its “Worldwide Leader in Sports” and before you could say ‘Pat Tillman’ turned it into an ad for the Army of One.

But even that wasn’t enough for Eisner and company. With the subtlety of Zell Miller clubbing a seal, they kicked off their “Salute to Our Troops Week” on Saturday September 11th.

Leave it to this platoon of Pinocchios to accomplish what Bush, Cheney, Powell, and Rice could not: create a connection between 9/11 and the Iraq Occupation.

SportsCenter Kuwaiti Style has also, with the journalistic integrity of a Frank Capra World War II film, done features this week on armed forces flag football, former athletes or relatives of famous athletes in the service, and how quickly an ice cream cone [symbol of Americana] melts in the savage 120-degree desert heat. It’s Heart of Darkness SportsCenter style: Boo Yah!

But the toy soldier sets and gauzy features are an Orwellian Epcot considering the reality on the ground.

Recent weeks have seen a shocking rise in civilian casualties as the US military hammer has rained death on unarmed civilians at a staggering rate. U.S. troops have also been subject to 87 attacks a day in August, more than double the average in the first half of 2004.

The recent surge of resistance forced the Bush administration to finally admit that whole cities in Iraq–including Samarra, Ramadi, Baquba and Falluja–are “no-go” zones for both U.S. troops and the new Iraqi police forces.

Disney can spin more spells than the wicked queen in Cinderella’s castle. But it would take a feat beyond the powers of their animation department to make a pretty picture out of this sick war.

We should be bringing the troops home. Instead we bring them Stuart Scott. Tragedy has become farce. Hold the booyah.

DAVE ZIRIN has a book coming out, What’s My Name, Fool: sports and resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books) comes out in spring 2005. To have his column sent to you every week, just e-mail

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DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at