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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

September 5, 2018

Football (?) Season 2018

Patricia A. Kelly

It’s beginning. The drama continues over National Football League (NFL) players “taking a knee” during the playing of the national anthem, over rule changes, even over Colin Kaepernick’s Nike commercial.


Football is the All-American sport, the “Clash of the Titans,” exciting to watch, and a fun activity for people looking for entertainment in their off hours.


Long hidden by the NFL, but now publicly acknowledge, is the danger to players from this contact sport. There is less participation among young, school-age players, as well as rule changes in professional play.


There’s little doubt that Aaron Hernandez, who committed murder and then suicide, suffering from severe chronic encephalopathy, was injured before the beginning of his professional career. He played in the NFL for three years, not long enough for that to be the sole cause. Of course, his family is suing his team, the NFL having all the money, but that’s a different story.


Maybe football’s demise is coming, with potentially fewer young prospects for college and pro teams. But the danger, the contact, the fighting for the ball and the brutal tackling are part of the attraction. Don’t we all dream at times of being strong and fighting back physically, or winning against those who betray or anger us?


Football allows us to live vicariously through these gladiators who appear on Sunday afternoons, while we sit on the couch, eat our snacks and drink our beer. A lot of us are more prepared for Monday after watching the contests, not to mention the fascinating diversion of learning the rules, second guessing the referees, and coming to understand the complexity of the plays and successful coaching.


It would be a shame to lose it.


On the other hand, many fans who would love to be watching football are boycotting the game because football, like the movie and music industries, has become political.


It’s great to be a celebrity and use your fame to do good in the world, with a public platform upon which to express your values. So many football players have given so much to others, and we, rightly, admire and love them for it. They have every right to weigh in publicly on issues, even political ones, of importance to them. It makes us think more carefully about pressing issues, if nothing else.


To many fans, it is not okay to disrupt an All-American game by kneeling for the traditional beginning, the raising of our country’s flag and the singing of the national anthem.


The best argument against this behavior is that football, not to mention movies, television and musical performances, are entertainment. The participants are very well paid to give us fun. Instead, they’re making us angry and sad, and disrupting traditions we value.


As we’ve argued though this, the bottom line remains the same. Do your job. Do other stuff on your own time.


Instead of helping resolve the conflict, television networks are now moving to stop showing the anthem as part of game coverage. They have lots of excuses for this, and they say they’ll still let us know what player response is, but what they’re really doing is trying to make disgruntled fans forget about something very important to them and start watching again.


The Star-Spangled Banner became our official National Anthem in 1931, but its history at sporting events began during the 1918 World Series, at a time when Americans were dispirited by the loss of 100,000 men during World War I, and the previous day’s terrorist attack in the city of Chicago. The stands weren’t full, the crowd distinctly unexcited, when the band, which traditionally played during the seventh inning stretch, played the anthem, and the crowd erupted, joined in singing, and made the front page of the paper.


Attendance went up for the rest of the games, the series was won by the St. Louis Cardinals for the last time in the 20th Century, and the rest is history.


The anthem has become a beloved part of American sporting events, not at all irrelevant, as some commentators have the nerve to say now, in this age of protecting the disruptive, and ignoring the wishes of the average American.


Maybe it’s time to stop boycotting teams and begin boycotting networks after this disgusting choice. Attendance at movie and music award shows – and professional football games is down. We’ve done this, and we can do more.


Hey, normal people. Let your voices and your slamming wallets be heard.


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