Politicians run a misdirection play

This is about having priorities. Standing up for something. Having substance. So without money to fund things during this federal government shutdown, sacrifices just have to be made.

The Department of Defense on Tuesday suspended intercollegiate sporting events at the service academies. For now, Air Force can't pay to fly to Saturday's football game at Navy. And Navy can't hold the game, anyway.

And here's the problem with both of those things:

They. Are. Not. True.

This is a con. But it's one with real consequences.

Navy officials said that a final decision on Saturday's game will be made by Thursday morning. (The DOD must also decide on Army at Boston College.) But a source told me that if the shutdown isn't over by Thursday, then Air Force-Navy won't go on.

But this game isn't a victim of the federal shutdown, as the media keep saying and the Department of Defense seems to be pretending. A source close to the situation told me that neither school would have to use any government funds to play the game.

Canceling the Air Force-Navy game would be a PR move and nothing more. It's a political football that is actually a real football.

This game is in jeopardy of being called off because politically it looks bad if the government can't provide services, but it can run a service academy football game.

But people are still getting their food stamps and social security checks. The decisions about what has actually been shut down during this shutdown are all about politics. Forget about the whole essential/non-essential designation, these decisions are based entirely on political reaction.

And the truth is that there is no real reason this game can't be played.

Because of the way Navy's athletic department is set up, its employees, including coaches, aren't even government employees. The money used by the football team is not appropriated from the government. And Air Force? While plenty of its money is appropriated, plenty, including its TV money and football gate, is not.

Just use that money, or the money from private donors who reportedly are already stepping up, or the conference money available to the school, and play the game. It is going to be a special moment in Annapolis, a record crowd for a game on CBS nationally.

Look, we put too much importance on football. And there are bigger priorities regarding this shutdown than football. So why do I think they should play this game?

Jeremy Black, that's why. Black owns a business in Annapolis called The Main Ingredient, which is the caterer for the suites at the football stadium. His company also will typically cater a few dozen fan-tailgate parties, with as many as 75 people apiece.

Black is a small-businessman, owning this catering business and also The Federal House tavern. A day without a football game will hurt his business, not kill it. The food he plans to use for Saturday has already been purchased and has arrived.

But remember that someone has to prepare the food that goes to the suites and the parties. Someone has to deliver it. Someone has to take the orders.

"Dozens and dozens of employees,'' Black said. "I don't know if it gets to 100, but it's a big operation. If they don't work, they don't get paid. A guy won't make his 150 dollars that day.''

Of course, Black isn't the only one with a small business that has budgeted in revenues from a football crowd. The hotels and restaurants in Annapolis, which are pumped up this week from a boat show, count on that money.

And what about the people working the parking lots at the game? The people selling hot dogs, selling programs, selling souvenirs inside the stadium or out?

Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Annapolis Capital that if the game -- built up as an event honoring the 1963 Cotton Bowl team -- isn't played, it will cost the Academy $4 million.

"That this thing has tentacles that reach to Annapolis is truly disappointing," Gladchuk told the paper. "It would be absolutely devastating if this game cannot be played. It would be a tremendous setback for an awful lot of people, and we can't even calculate the total cost.''

A football game has its own economy. And it's a microcosm, really, of what can happen to the nation's economy during the shutdown.

But, look, if this is damage done to serve a greater good, then fine. If it is done on a principle, then OK.

That's not what's happening here. This is just a smokescreen, not even part of the government shutdown. It just looks like it is.

The US economy is going to be hurt if the shutdown continues, and there is no need to shut down extra things for PR and image.

Especially when they cause real damage to real people.