Today is our 4,279th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,239
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,099
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 450, 586, 175, 000 .00
So this morning, we'll take a look at where military and sport might intersect. While all the service academies have teams in the major American sports, and some servicemen have even been good enough to play professionally after their military careers, this is not where we're going today. War may seem exciting and dangerous to those of us on the outside, but I've read many accounts that describe it as "minutes of abject terror surrounded by weeks of boredom". Those soldiers need something to do while they're waiting their turn to get shot at.
There have always been cards and gambling, but since the video game age began some 30 years ago, gaming systems have gone to war with our troops as an increasing diversion and tenuous connection to home. Perhaps you've heard some of the hype about Microsoft's new "Xbox One", and the mixed reaction it's getting from the gaming community. It seems that most of the new features aren't going to work outside the United States, and some in the military are not happy, because most of the new features don't work where there is limited internet connection. (Like in a warzone, or on a ship far from a transmission tower.)
But then a curious thing happened...Microsoft did the right thing.
In a sudden about-face after taking fire from a broad swath of the military gamer community, Microsoft has reversed a series of controversial restrictions for its next-gen Xbox One console.
Those rules, announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this month, created a tsunami of discontent among off-duty gamers. The biggest issue was a requirement for the new console to phone home to the Microsoft mothership once a day via the Internet. If it did not do that, the $499 console, set for release in November, would have shut down until reconnected.
Of course, that would be a huge problem for most troops stationed downrange or aboard ships with limited Internet availability. But there were other complaints, too, including regional locks on games and playing that would have severely limited gaming action for those lucky to have an Internet connection overseas, as well as the ability to buy, lend and sell used games for everyone else.
But in an announcement posted on the Xbox website June 19, Microsoft executive Don Mattrick said the Xbox One will still work with no Internet connection.
“After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again,” Mattrick wrote. “There is no 24-hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.”
Microsoft also has relaxed its planned DRM policy for the new console and its games. “Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc-based games just like you do today,” Mattrick wrote.
“There will be no limitations to using and sharing games. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you,” he wrote. “Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.”
But Microsoft’s reversal means some features planned for Xbox One will be shelved, including a family option that would have let users share a games library with as many as 10 other people.
Still unclear is whether Xbox One will be fully supported in countries outside of the 21 originally listed in the rollout for the console.
Under that arrangement, troops in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom were good to go for gaming, for example, but those stationed in South Korea, Japan and Afghanistan were unsupported.
Microsoft’s PR team did not respond to repeated requests for clarification.
For a previous generation, it was baseball and war that intersected. You can look it up; many of the greatest major-leaguers of the WWII era had shortened careers because they traded their uniforms in for another. Perhaps the most famous was the Splendid Splinter, who went on to fly P-51 Mustangs, but there are many hundreds more.
The Navy has decided to offer a new award
, for Chiefs only, named after Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who was a gun captain aboard the USS Alabama during the war. Mr. Feller enlisted just two days after Pearl Harbor, and was the first major-leaguer to do so, thus leading the way for more to follow.
A new award paying tribute to a Hall of Fame chief petty officer will be open to chiefs only, according to a Navy message — and nominations are due soon.
The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award is named for a pitcher who set his career aside for three-plus years to serve during World War II, seeking combat duty instead of public relations missions.
“It is important to recognize Bob Feller’s unselfish devotion to our nation and Navy,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens. “He made the personal choice to give up money and fame for the service of others and placed himself in harm’s way with his shipmates during a time of war. The chief petty officer that is selected for the Bob Feller Act of Valor award will embody these same traits.”
Nominations for the award close June 17. Details on the process are available in a fleetwide message, NAVADMIN 138/13, released late last month.
Navy officials will forward three semifinalists to the award’s civilian board of directors, which will select a winner. That winner will be honored on Veterans Day at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., alongside an active major leaguer and a living Hall of Famer, selected for their support of the military and commitment to Feller’s patriotic ideals.
Again, I believe this throws the current disconnect between the military and the rest of society into clear focus, however briefly. During WWII, sports were utterly depleted as most of the best went to serve their country. Boxing, in particular, lost all their best to war, the saying at the time being "If you're strong enough to fight, shouldn't you be fighting for your country?" Despite his tragic and propagandic end, Pat Tillman is the only modern athlete who springs readily to mind that did the same when his country needed him.