We’ve covered these stories enough by this point that you should all be familiar with them. Well paid NFL stars decide to kneel, sit, raise a fist or otherwise protest during the playing of the National Anthem before kickoff. They drag politics into what’s really supposed to be a fun, recreational break on a weekend or Monday or Thursday night and annoy the fans to the point where ratings and stadium attendance plummets. The NFL seems tongue-tied and can’t figure out what to do without offending somebody and pretty soon nobody is even bothering to talk about the standings, the stats, or how incredibly horrible the Jets look this year. (Hey, wait… maybe this isn’t all bad.)
Never fear. There was apparently a solution sitting out there all this time right in front of our noses but nobody had the perspicacity to run with it. Enter Yahoo sports columnist Dan Wetzel. With an eye for direct action and no-nonsense fixes for perplexing problems, Dan points out the one possibility nobody else dared to utter. Hey, guys… why don’t you just stop playing that stupid National Anthem before the games? Problem solved! (Emphasis added)
[I]t’s all about the anthem, the anthem, the anthem.
Which begs a different question that has nothing to do with constitutional rights of some players to stand or not to stand, let alone the capitalistic right of some fans to stop supporting them, or supporting them even more, because of it.
Why play the anthem before football games, or any games, at all?
Ostensibly, it is patriotic. For many people, though, it isn’t, and not just the ones protesting. Scan the crowd during the anthem at any sporting event and you’ll see people talking to each other, looking at their phones, eating, drinking or scooting off to the bathroom.
How many of them are standing only out of societal pressure? In some stadiums they sing along. In others, recording artists get to use the moment in an effort to market and promote themselves. In others, the crowd playfully highlights certain words – “ohh” they shout at “O say does that Star-Spangled Banner,” or they yell “red” if that corresponds with team colors.
Dan goes on to point out many other tidbits to support his suggestion. Did you know that many people in the stands stay in their seats, eat food or look at their phones while the Anthem is played? And it’s really not that great of a song to begin with, at least according to the author. After all, if it was any good they’d play all four verses and not just the first one. He also notes that nobody plays the National Anthem at the beginning of a concert, a movie, a play or during the opening credits of television shows.
My response to pretty much all of these complaints is… so what? The people in the stands are not the stars of the show. Nobody came to look at them. They can choose to stand and sing along or stay in their chairs. We don’t have the song played at the beginning of TV shows because nobody is paying for the commercial time they would lose. Movies and plays? Beats me why they never decided to. Maybe they should. But the whole point is that it pays honor to our military and to our nation. And it presents the opportunity (which is not mandatory) for the fans to join in on that very commendable endeavor. And unlike movies and plays, it’s already a tradition stretching back to the 1918 world series (as Dan himself points out).
But more to the point… this is your idea of a solution? A handful of people are causing problems during the ceremony so we’ll just get rid of the ceremony? That seems like surrendering the battle before it’s even begun. But then, maybe that’s the idea here. And it’s a darned ironic one considering the nature of the song we’re talking about.