Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sports commentary - What are wristbands really supporting?

Here's the sports commentary I did for last week's Turret. I got a significant amount of hate mail about this one - meaning three emails. At least people are reading!

What are wristbands
really supporting?

By Spc. Ian Boudreau
Turret Sports Editor

Wednesday morning, Lance Armstrong seemed poised to take his seventh consecutive win in the Tour de France, leading by 55 seconds over American David Zabriskie.

Also, leaders of the world's wealthiest eight nations began talks yesterday in Scotland to discuss aid to Africa and world climate change. The conference was preceded by Sir Bob Geldof's Live 8 worldwide concert series, billed as the biggest gig ever.

What do these two seemingly disparate events have in common?

Rubber wristbands.

Yes, you can see the yellow "Livestrong" bracelets everywhere now, advertising to the world that the wearer has donated some pocket change to cancer research. The newer white "One" bracelets demonstrate that the wrists they surround belong to people who have donated something to the cause of African debt relief.

Even more pervasive are the magnetic ribbons people place on their vehicles. There are a whole rainbow of colors for theseyellow for "Support the Troops," pink for breast cancer, black for POW/MIA, and others I haven't catalogued, including camouflage, yellow with the Stars and Stripes, blue, ochre, and mauve.

Admittedly, all of these are ostensibly in support of worthy causes (except, perhaps, the sarcastic black wristbands that say "Livewrong").

So why do they bug me so much? It's because wearing a bracelet or putting a magnet on a car is a meaningless act in itself, at least as far as the "cause" is concerned. All it does is say, "Look at me! I support something!"

I think charitable donations are a great way to give back to the world, but I think something is lost when you get a prize for making them. It reminds me of being a kid and asking for a specific brand of junk-food breakfast cereal just because there was some kind of transforming robot or decoder ring at the bottom of the box -- not because I really liked the cereal.

Furthermore, just wearing a bracelet or displaying a magnet on a vehicle isn't really supporting anything, practically speaking. I see "Support the Troops" signs everywhere, but it would be good to know that the support went further than mere words.

Before anyone gets too indignant, I want to say that I think supporting the troops is a vital and wonderful thing for those of us in the United States. All I'm saying is that a magnet on a Volvo scooting up Dixie Highway isn't doing anyone in the Green Zone any real good.

So support cancer research. Support the troops. Support African debt relief. But do so in ways that really make a differenceby contributing your time and income and encouraging your friends, family, and community members to do the same.

Showing off only cheapens your contribution.

It's been said that virtue is its own reward.