From the Christmas Truce of 1914, when — as legend has it — British and German troops momentarily broke the tide of World War I for a game of soccer, the role of sports and the military has been set in our collective subconscious. As far back as ancient Greece, sports such as javelin-throwing were a noble test of one’s prowess as a warrior — not to mention boxing, wrestling or chariot racing. But, for thousands of years, sports revolved around personal glory: where the victor would wear a laurel wreath in ultimate triumph.
What the Christmas Truce, as well as the introduction of team sports in the late 1800s, did for sports and for the military, was tie together the two through their common bond of emphasis on teamwork and community. The battles between champions of years past bear little resemblance to the massive popularity (i.e. fan nations) of the NFL or Major League Baseball, compared to the more niche status of boxing or NASCAR.
The adoption of sports within the military was a way to promote camaraderie and physical fitness. When looking around Fort Bragg, the general state of recreation is remarkable in its variety and its availability. From the running at Hedrick Stadium to the golf at Ryder Golf Course, Bragg has a proud history of disport. What really stands out, however, is the softball teams of the community.
When the fields meet their evening dewiness and the sun shades itself orange, the Soldiers and their Families come out in athletic attire to engage in the cousin of America’s pastime: softball.
Morning reports are temporarily forgotten as service members swing long, the possibilities of deployment fade into the background as spouses tag someone out with the swoosh of a glove and the concerns of the real world are forgotten, if not for the briefest moment. If sports can make the men of WWI forget their lives in frozen, bullet-ridden trenches for a game between countries that don’t even speak the same language, then the power of community-building can certainly continue to ring true in the softball games at Bragg.
When the game ends, the lights begin to fade on the field and the next day calls. Like all truces, the soccer players ended theirs and returned back to war. But for us, we can continue to cheer on our loved ones and friends as they further the greatness of a community that supports a nation during the day, and promotes our Families by night. That’s what makes the softball here at Bragg so great – “Play ball!”