The theater and marketing of the returning soldier

This was a nice moment at an NFL pre-season game the other day. A returning soldier surprising his cheerleader-wife at a St. Louis Rams game. It screams “America!” And also: “Football!”

Deadspin is pushing back on this one, however, suggesting that because the soldier didn’t serve in a war zone — he was in South Korea — it’s a disingenuous, scripted moment. Also, he’s rich; he’s part of the ginormous Busch family. And she’s not so much a cheerleader as she is a Marine also. And her mother is running for state representative; she is now using the moment as part of a political ad.

It makes sense that an NFL team would go out of its way to do something special for a member of one of the most powerful families in America instead of, say, a local grunt who’d served in a combat zone, because these reunions really aren’t orchestrated and televised for the benefit of the soldiers and families involved. They are done because cozying up to the military is a good way for the NFL to market itself as a noble civic endeavor while making some extra money, and because the American football-loving public loves a chance to share in a bit of un-earned catharsis—watching two smiling, photogenic soldiers embrace in relief is a great way to forget about all the bodies that have piled up. If a given reunion happens to basically be a viral political ad—and given that Candace Ruocco Valentine is not only the member of two connected families and a former White House intern but the holder of both a JD and a doctorate in public policy analysis, one suspects that this moment may be shared on some campaign page of her own before too long—it’s hard to be too put out. That is, after all, what they all are.

Candace acknowledged to FoxNews she knew her husband had returned to the United States from his long deployment overseas, but didn’t know if he’d get leave from his unit to attend her game.

(h/t: Christopher Tassava)