Super Bowl XXV should be painted in hues of red, white and blue

John Steadman

January 21, 1991|By John Steadman

Put miniature American flags in the hands of all 74,315 spectators at Tampa Stadium, sing the national anthem and offer the Pledge of Allegiance -- with the television/radio audience across the land joining the crowd, as one voice, for the inspirational recitation. What a heart-lifting panorama that would be.

The National Football League could easily arrange it and, in the process, exhibit the type of patriotic leadership needed at a time like this. It also would make the 25th anniversary of the Super Bowl an extraordinary occasion for the entire country . . . mainly the families of those involved in the war.

There's a subdued mood for football, as is to be expected with U.S. troops engaged in battle. The league would be giving all of us an opportunity to demonstrate consideration for unselfish men and women performing a life-or-death job in behalf of freedom.

The National Flag Day Foundation, an all-volunteer organization, through its president, Louis Koerber of Baltimore, has made a formal request to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue that the Super Bowl gathering sing the anthem and offer the pledge en masse. And, hopefully, to elicit the network TV/radio announcers to invite the country, and our citizens in all parts of the world, to join in with the fans in Tampa for the brief ceremony.

The idea, if implemented, would cover the NFL with glory and earn deserving praise. Not a grandstand play at all. The Freedom Foundation, in Valley Forge, Pa., would be ecstatic. Likewise the White House and President Bush.

The Super Bowl next Sunday will be carried by ABC. Roone Arledge, president of ABC News, and Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports, have been contacted by Koerber and apprised of the contact he made with the NFL.

Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md., friend of the National Flag Day Foundation, has made an appeal to Tagliabue. And David Demarest, who is President Bush's director of community and public affairs also was informed of the proposal.

During the Vietnam War, the city of Green Bay, Wis., before a game between the Baltimore Colts and Green Bay Packers, distributed handheld flags to the gathering in what evolved into an epic display of true red, white and blue nationalism. Vincent T. Lombardi, the coach, was elated.

"We would never want to be considered presumptuous but believe with strong conviction it would be in the best interest of America if this could happen," said Koerber, who retired as one of the country's leading college football officials after playing the game as a Johns Hopkins University halfback.

"All it would take is for the announcer to say, 'Now to honor our country, and its men and women of the military, we invite all of you in our listening/viewing audience to join in singing our national anthem.' This would be followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, which is exactly 31 special words."

Joining Koerber in the effort is Gen. John W. Vessey, ret., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who lives in Garrison, Minn. Also on the National Flag Day Foundation Committee are ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, Hall of Fame baseball member Brooks Robinson and tennis player Pam Shriver.

Their campaign to elevate the flag brought earlier commendations from former President Reagan and others in high government places. Reagan came to Baltimore in 1985 to lead a national "Pause for the Pledge."

The Super Bowl telecast annually draws the highest number of viewers, which is why the NFL ought to stand up, wave the flag, sing the anthem, make the pledge and let America's Team in the war zone know how we feel.

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