Baltimore Orioles: Patriotism will always have a place in sports
As the Baltimore Orioles get set to complete their series in Cleveland, ESPN’s Howard Bryant is railing against police officers, military, and patriotism.
As the Baltimore Orioles get set to conclude their series in Cleveland, I read something this morning which absolutely made my skin crawl. In general, I don’t feel that it’s my place to take sides and/or to totally give my opinion. Some columnists disagree, and that’s fine. But the fact is that people read Birds Watcher for Orioles news and information. My personal views are all but irrelevant. But sometimes you have to step out of character.
I came across this article as I was researching some stats for today’s game. You can read it for yourself, however ESPN columnist Howard Bryant is apparently railing against what he sees as forced patriotism. In effect, the mere act of police officers or military singing the national anthem at a sporting event is forced patriotism (by authoritarian means). The same of course is true in his view of flyovers and presumably the act of singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch.
First off, everyone is entitled to their view, including Mr. Bryant. I respect that, and I respect his right to use his forum as a columnist to express that view. Since 1776, men and women have given their lives so that he could have the right to express his opposing viewpoint – and while that may come across as snarky on my part, I do sincerely mean that. I believe very strongly in the freedom of speech and expression, lest that speech present a clear and present danger to society.
But I’m also entitled to my view, and thus entitled to use my own bully pulpiti to take issue with those of Mr. Bryant. So let’s start here: there’s no such thing as forced patriotism (at the ballpark or anywhere else). Heck, you have the freedom to sit down with your cap on and your arms crossed during the national anthem if you choose to do so. Nobody’s forcing anyone to stand, salute, etc at any point in the display.
Yes, I’m of the mindset that you should stand when the flag comes by, during the national anthem, etc. And I suspect that most of society is as well – be folks liberal or conservative. However I’m just unsure of how a police officer or soldier singing our national anthem at a sporting event is an authoritarian shift.
Again, Mr. Bryant is entitled to his view. However we must also keep in mind that President Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our nation’s greatest chief executive once offered the following about the potential future destruction of America:
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
Think about that for a moment, and then think about what Mr. Bryant is suggesting. His basic point is that we as a nation should tone down the patriotism, or what he calls forced patriotism. If we become a nation of cynics in terms of what we stand for and which direction our country is going, slowly our union will see it’s destruction. Eventually the lack of caring and the lack of civic and national interest will reflect in all aspects of society – and that folks is how nations and empires can be conquered. History guarantees it.
This is a baseball column, right? Well compare this to baseball for a moment. I would submit that during some of the leaner years, there were Oriole teams who maybe didn’t care quite as much as they should have. This is not to say that players didn’t play hard or anything else. But perhaps there were a few players here and there who might have simply been collecting a paycheck.
That type of non-caring attitude malaises a team and a clubhouse, and the results speak for themselves. Do we really want our nation to turn into the O’s, circa 2006 or so? Or perhaps the present-day Atlanta Braves?
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If you’re attending tomorrow’s Memorial Day game at Camden Yards and you agree with Mr. Bryant, I would invite you to turn your back on the field during the national anthem. It’s your right, and I do in fact respect that. However my personal view is that we should never take cynicism towards the government or towards authority to the point to where we truly turn our backs on our homeland. Disagree with US policy, with the government, or with authorities all you’d like – but you should still know and understand that the flag represents you and the entire nation.
Do I disagree with Mr. Bryant? Yes, that’s fairly obvious. And I do personally feel that what he’s suggesting is a dangerous slope. It’s not high treason by any means, nor does it pass the aforementioned sniff test of clear and present danger. But apathy towards our country leads to ignorance, which can lead to the destruction from within that I mentioned above.
Next: Baltimore Orioles: End of the line for Ubaldo Jimenez?
So I would offer this to Mr. Bryant; nobody’s saying you have to bleed red, white, and blue on a daily basis. Nobody’s saying you have to live and breath the flag, apple pie, and the fourth of July everyday (although who could really turn down a slice of apple pie a la mode?!). But let’s at least understand that it’s right and proper to pay tribute to our nation’s history, her flag, and those who gave their lives in her name during the national anthem. It’s the least we can do…all while understanding that if we don’t, we’re in no way breaking the laws of the union for which that flag stands…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.