Wednesday, September 13, 2017

War without Guns, Baker Mayfield and Flag Plants

Baker Mayfield carrying OU's colors at Ohio State
One of my favorite football stories of all time is when the Carlisle Indian School, a group of Indian boys from Oklahoma and other Indian lands, played a football game against the Army Cadets at Westpoint, New York, on November 9, 1912. Oklahoma's Jim Thorpe was the Carlisle Indian's tailback, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Army Cadet's tailback. Nine future American war generals played on Army's football team that year, and nobody gave the Carlisle Indians a chance to win the game. Army's football team was the best in the nation. This Carlisle vs. Army game has been called Football's Greatest Battle.

At half-time, the Army Cadets led the Carlisle Indians by a score of 6-0. In probably the greatest speech ever given by a football coach, Carlisle Indian's coach Glenn "Pop" Warner motivated his players by saying the following:
"Their fathers and grandfathers are the ones who fought and killed your fathers on the plains of Oklahoma. These men playing against you today are soldiers. They are the Long Knives. You are Indians. After today, we will know if you are warriors. Get out there and defeat Army!"
Carslile came out and shocked the nation by winning the game 27-6. The Indians had defeated Army on the battlefield.
Pop Warner and Jim Thorpe at practice before the 1912 Army
game. Courtesy of Cumberland County Historical Society.

Naval Captain Johnny Whelchel, Navy's football coach during the 1942-1943 season, described the game of football as "a war without guns, and who in hell wants to lose a war."

In football, two opposing forces face each other for final victory on the scoreboard. As in war, the defeated foe will lose the battle - sometimes in their home territory - and will leave the battlefield defeated and dejected.

It is the custom of victors in war to place their flag on the battlefield as a sign the battle has been won.

The Union placed its flag on Little Round Top Mountain and Big Round Top Mountain after the  Union defeated Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg.

British and American soldiers planted their flags on formerly held German territory in France after the battle of Normandy.

American troops planted their flag on formerly held Japanese territory at Iwo Jima.

Baker Mayfield and Flag Planting at Ohio Stadium

Rachelle and I were in Columbus, Ohio for the Oklahoma Sooners vs. Ohio State Buckeyes football game at Ohio Stadium. I've been following Oklahoma football since I learned to walk, having a grandfather who was an All-Big Six tight end for the University of Oklahoma in the late 1920's and early 1930's.

If you've never sat close to the football field for a college or professional game, it's hard to comprehend how physical and brutal football can be.

Football is truly "war without guns."

Oklahoma and Ohio State players were flying around the field, using strategy to take a little pigskin ball into the enemy territory, and fighting each other for victory. At the end of the battle, Oklahoma won.

And after the battle was over, Baker Mayfield planted Oklahoma's flag in the middle of Ohio Stadium.

Some are saying Baker Mayfield's actions display a lack of class.

Since when do men fight a war with class?

Some are saying Baker Mayfield's actions display a lack of civility.

With apologies to the Civil War  - a war where more American soldiers died than all American wars combined - since when is war "civil"?

Some are saying that planting your flag on the opposing team's field is unsportsmanlike.

I get it.

People think football is a sport like chess.

It's not.

Football is a war without guns.

And Saturday night the victors planted their flag in Ohio Stadium.

The way to stop the enemy from planting a flag in the center of the battlefield is to win the war.


Mike O'Neal said...

Football is not war, it's a game. Your right it is not chess, however like chess there are rules both during the contest itself and before and after. The after rules are not written but developed by gentleman and taught to the next generation. Coaches used to teach and demand this to their players. What I have read about Coach Warner, if Jim Thorp would have demonstrated a act of selfishness at the end of the game you mentioned, he would been benched.
We live in a country torn apart by violence, disrepect and intimidation. Yes, football is a violent sport and yes there is some rightful comparison to war between opposing teams, but what separates it from war is there has to be a respect for ones opponent. Otherwise
The participants are reduced to animals. I'm not calling Baker an animal. But this display of disrespect for his opponents
will never be erased in the history books and the video will live on and on. I understand he apologized and I for one I forgive him and wish him the best of luck for the rest of this season.
I have have always and still do admire you for the man you have become. This comparison sticks in my craw just a bit.
Said in love. Mike O'Neal

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for your comment. I write knowing that not all will agree. The emotions, physicality, and outcomes are far different. I believe that's my point. Because football is more like war, the flag plant is to be expected (in my opinion). In chess, the King is knocked over and a polite "Checkmate" is spoken.

Just two different games.

One is a game on the field of battle; the other is a game in the parlor of a home.

Again, thanks for your comment and respect your disagreement.

Christiane said...

What a way to 'inspire' the 'troops':

""Their fathers and grandfathers are the ones who fought and killed your fathers on the plains of Oklahoma. These men playing against you today are soldiers. They are the Long Knives. You are Indians. After today, we will know if you are warriors. Get out there and defeat Army!""

The coach tapped into probably one of the most tragic stories in our country's history: the treatment of the Indians whose land was taken from them forcefully in most cases. Our native American people do have a legitimate history that ought to be told and taught to our nation's children, not as a call to 'revenge', but as a reminder of a chapter that we may not want to look at, but we dare not look away from either, because to do so is an attempt to invalidate the suffering and unfair treatment of our Native American citizens, the 'first Americans'.

So the Oklahoma boys, many of whom descended from warriors defeated by the 'long knives' of long ago, were rallied to courage . . . to celebrate the courage of a time when their forefathers were free and proud and on their own land with a dignity that was not respected by those who came against them.

I think the post is a really good one. It's hard to examine the past when wrong has been done. But it is a good thing to celebrate the dignity of those who died defending what was their true homeland in that time.

What's for that coach to apologize for? I'm not seeing it. That coach was inspired, and inspiring. And I bet it was one great game. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I'll have to fall on the side of "no disrespect intended or should be received" on this one. It IS a game but surely all know it's an analogy that you're using here, much as someone would say, "The heat today is hell!" There are times that such an action of putting a flag in the center of the field WOULD be an act of disrespect. But AT THE END of a game isn't one of them. Just as Ohio State singing their fight song at the center of the field after their victory wasn't disrespectful. Some OU fans yelled "disrespect" and the answer MOST OU fans gave back was, losing the game the way we did was disrespect.

I'm thinking, other than being fun to talk about, it's really the proverbial, "Much ado about nothing!"

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane and Paul,

I think that's my point.

No disrespect to the University of Ohio State or to their players or coaches.

The emotional planting of one's colors is the natural, historical and logical emotional outcome of a victorious battle.

To prevent it, win the battle.

Anonymous said...


Enjoyed your post.

I have a relative that died at Gettysburg. He was an officer that found a sentry asleep. Instead of having him shot, he took his place.

Last Friday we watched our grandson play football in Bonham, Texas which is our mailing address. It was similar to the Civil War in feeling who to root for. :)

His school was 3A and Bonham was 4A. He is 6'2" and is a pass receiver. His cousin on the other team is 4" taller and weighs twice as much. Our grandson caught several passes and won 57 t0 27.

I couldn't decide if the winning team ended the game by kneeling on the 5 yard line was being nice or prevented them from having the chance of having honor of stopping them from scoring.

Instead of planting a flag, long ago I've heard some games ended by the winning team tearing down their opponents goal post.

My wife has a cousin picked by the New York Giants as their second backup quarterback. Once again last Sunday, who did we cheer for, Dallas Cowboys or her cousin? :)

My father felt America was going to hell with a football under its arm.

Wade Burleson said...

"My father felt America was going to hell with a football under its arm."

Probably some wisdom in your father's words.

I take a historical world-view. The world is not yet the Kingdom. Just as Jesus said "The poor will always be among you," there will also always be war until heaven and earth unite. Until the Prince of Peace reigns, the curse over the world remains.

Aussie John said...

The father who "felt America was going to hell with a football under its arm", may have understood more than he is given credit for. If he'd said it about Australia, I'd have certainly agreed!

Pege' said...

Wade, I see what you are trying to is a bit of a stretch, but I see it. My father was a World War II and Korean War vet, My Husband a Gulf War I and the sequel vet, my son also a vet was stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Afganistan. My sister lost her boyfriend in Vietnam I have several friends who are Vietnam vets. With all due respect,
FOOTBALL IS A GAME AND NO ONE DIES!! Perhaps you will change your thinking if you watch the new Ken Burns documentary being shown on PBS Septemeber 17... Approximately 300 service member/vets have committed suicide last year. PTSD is a very real thing. The military community is being stretched thin and is suffering. FOOTBALL IS A GAME. Planting a flag such as the marines did in Iwo Jima was a victory for all the lives lost to take that small piece of land. Perhaps reading FLAG OF OUR FATHERS would enlighten you.
Placing a flag on a football field after winning a game might have appeared brave and was a flag on a football field.You have too of a lofty view of football and I think the comparison you made to a battle and war is disrespectful to those who have and to those who have died.

Wade Burleson said...

Good thoughts, Peg. I was writing more from Baker's perspective - as I deemed it - than my own.

Wade Burleson said...

Good thoughts, Peg. I was writing more from Baker's perspective - as I deemed it - than my own.

Anonymous said...


With all due respect, this article is about the least intelligent post you have ever written.

1) As it been said before, football is not war. Planting a flag on the opponents field is only one thing: unsportsmanlike. There is no defense for such an action.

2) In chess, you do not knock over your opponents king after checkmate. If someone did that to me, I would consider it disrespectful. A player may knock over his own king as a sign of resignation, but that is done more in the movies than in real life.

3) From one of your comments: "the University of Ohio State". You could at least get the name of the school right (The Ohio State University). By the way, isn't OU located in Tulsa?

In conclusion, football is football and war is war. One is a game and one is life or death. Maybe the fanatics of OU football, their players and coaches don't know the difference.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Wade: Good article and I agree. Goosebumps went up my arm when he planted the flag. I thought is was appropriate and as Paul and Christianne have said, it's much ado about nothing.

Pege' said...

Wade, Well If Baker Mayfield had that as his motive which I highly doubt. I think he was just planting the OU flag in the ground cuz he could and they won!! "In your face O.S.U." OKLAHOMA WAS HERE!!!

I do like the historical info.

My sweet hubby tells me since I have never played football to the level of competition that game must have been at...I don't get your blog post. He played high school football and he says it does feel like a battle. So, I will have to concede that experientially I do not have insight into the game. However, I still think the analogy was stretched like a rather large rubber band.

Rex Ray said...

“Anonymous” forgot to sign his name. :)

My father said that about America going to hell with a football under its arm. He didn’t like football or football players. In fact breaking their beds by wrestling almost got him kicked out of college.

OkieNoodler405 said...

Boomer Sooner! OU is located in Norman, not Tulsa. And the comparison makes sense to me, it’s a strategic battle for territory, like war.