I can imagine that one of the greatest honors a member of the military can receive is being selected as part of the Color Guard presenting the American flag at the Super Bowl. You are literally the symbol of the nation you might fight and die for with up to a billion people watching. Even for someone whose closest relation to military service was a dad who was an Air Force mechanic in Korea, it gives me goosebumps.
After being a part of the ceremonies, you would think that the Color Guard would then be rewarded by being able to relax and watch the game. Perhaps not luxury boxes, but at least a block of seats and some free popcorn. But of course, we’re talking about the NFL, and you would be wrong - the league has stuck the servicemen and women with the thousands of other “extras” watching the game on a big-screen TV
at an undisclosed location deep inside the bowels of the stadium.
Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with the military personnel and their families who were expecting a bit more respect, such as the mother of a Marine who wrote into THE THUNDER RUN to complain about their treatment. Clearly, the soldiers needed a hero, and they found one: Mike Florio of PRO FOOTBALL TALK, who kept pressing the issue until the league finally bowed to pressure and agreed to give the 12-person Color Guards seats at the game.
Florio has suggested having players (including those not playing in the game) buy their allotted two tickets to give to the Color Guard, and even said he was willing to kick in for a ticket himself. But he also conceded that since this was a longstanding policy and not, as many people thought, a new rule, the league had the right to draw a line in the sand between high-profile performers (National Anthem singers, halftime show headliners) who surely get free tickets, and the other 2,000 performers.
And I agree that not everyone should get tickets. But really - shutting out the military Color Guard? Roger Goodell can talk all he wants about going on USO trips to Iraq and Afghanistan with Drew Brees and Osi Umenyiora, and that’s spiffy. But with the gobs of money the league will make on the Super Bowl (and with tickets being a fraction of that), they had to be publicly shamed into coughing up a dozen tickets for troops who are performing their duties at the event? Bad, bad, stupid PR, guys.