On this day 74 years ago, the United States went to war when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Much of the world was already at war, but that was the action that would bring the United States into it.
It was such a frightening day, Dec. 7, 1941, that it is remembered as “a day that will live in infamy” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words.
At the Washington Redskins’ game against the Philadelphia Eagles that day at Griffith Stadium, there was no war going on. There was just football. There was no sign that bombs had fallen at Pearl Harbor. There were only announcements that came, one after the other, for military and government officials to report to their offices.
“We didn’t know what the hell was going on,” Sammy Baugh said. “I had never heard that many announcements one right after another. We felt something was up, but we just kept playing.”
Owner George Preston Marshall refused to allow any word of the bombing on the public address system, so the 27,000 fans in the stands were oblivious to the world that had changed around them that day.
“I didn’t want to divert the fans’ attention from the game,” Marshall said.
Redskins fans who head to FedEx Field for the game against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night won’t have that luxury of being oblivious. They will be very aware that the world has changed around them. Every day seems to have its own infamy, from the terrorist attacks last month in Paris at the Stade de France that left 130 people dead and 350 people injured to the shooting last week in San Bernardino that killed 14 people.
On Dec. 7, 2015, everyone who files into FedEx Field will know what is going on with the world at war today.
They’ll go through metal detectors to determine if they are the enemy. They will see bomb-sniffing dogs around the stadium looking for explosives. They will be walking among police armed with M4 assault weapons.
What has changed since Dec. 7, 1941 for Redskins fans? The war is now where they live, where they work — and where they seek refuge watching football.
The NFL now has security measures “certified and designated by the Department of Homeland Security since 2008 as effective anti-terrorism technology. All NFL clubs use mandatory metal detectors screening and multiple layers of perimeter security external to the stadium to safeguard fans and the stadium from explosive threats,” according to a statement released by the NFL following the Paris attacks.
Fans who went to the Dec. 7, 1941 game at Griffith Stadium knew the world was a dangerous place. The day before, the front pages of newspapers around the country carried stories with headlines like “Britain declares war on 3 Nazi allies” and “Australia takes more war steps.”
But as they went to the stadium that day to watch Washington defeat Philadelphia, 20-14, they likely thought the world was safe on their shores — and in the stadium.
Tonight, for the nationally televised “Monday Night Football” game against the Cowboys, fans will be reminded nearly every step of the way before they get to their seats that the world is a very dangerous place now everywhere they go. The Redskins and the NFL will do all they can to try to convince those fans they are safe, as they did with a statement the league issued following the Paris attacks.
Clarifying that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI informed the league that it does not know of any existing threats, the NFL increased a security presence inside and outside stadiums. Fans were again urged not to bring bags to games, but if they must, they must be clear and compact.
“The NFL and team security departments work closely with stadium operation personnel and federal, state, and local law enforcement to provide a safe experience for the more than 17 million fans who annually attend NFL games,” that statement read. “The NFL and its teams continually evaluate and improve our comprehensive security plan.”’
When Redskins fans entered Griffith Stadium 74 years ago, they did not know yet that the world had changed. Those who enter FedEx Field tonight know very well how the world has changed. And, if they forget, they will be reminded by the NFL’s comprehensive security plan.
⦁ Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.