I Have a Gripe

October 13, 2016

For the Love of Team

Every Wednesday night I watch Undeniable with Joe Buck. If you are not familiar, it is a great show. Sportscaster Joe Buck conducts a one-on-one interview each week with a well-known athlete. He has interviewed some great athletes. This week was one of my favorites – the great Lynn Swann.

I have always loved football. Watching teams like The Steelers of the 1970s and my beloved Niners of the 1980s hold great memories. At the time I didn’t realize it, but I was learning about a key skill for life – teamwork. A player started their career with a team and they stayed with that team until the day they walked off the field for the last time.

During the interview with Lynn Swann, he spoke about his love of team. How they sacrificed personal goals for the good of the team. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, he spoke of his teammates and his coaches. When he spoke of teammate, John Stallworth, he said:

“This is, this is the single greatest honor in my life. The single greatest honor of my life. And, if this is the greatest hour of my life, then I would tell you at this moment, this is only a half-hour. It’ll be the greatest hour when I can stand and sit in that back row and John Stallworth is wearing a gold jacket making this speech.”

To me, this is team in the truest sense of the word. In his greatest moment, he still took the time to recognize someone on his team he felt was deserving of induction into the Hall of Fame. Stallworth was inducted the following year.

Today’s pro athletes? Not so much.

Today it is all about the contract. There is no loyalty to a team, a coach, or the fans. It is about who will pay the most. They focus on their own stats and a fancy end-zone celebration instead of what they can do for the success of the team.

Sometimes the owners aren’t much better. While the stadiums built for theses teams are more and more elaborate, the ticket prices go higher and higher. Most people can’t afford to take their kids to a game. As a result, the scene of a father and son going to a game to enjoy a Coke and a hot dog has been replaced by guys in suits heading out after work while eating sushi in premier boxes.

I believe in loyalty.

August 30, 2016

Freedom of Expression vs. Freedom from Consequences

“There’s a place in the world for the angry young man. With his working class ties and his radical plans. He refuses to bend he refuses to crawl. And he’s always at home with his back to the wall. And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost. And struggles and bleeds as he hangs on his cross. And likes to be known as the angry young man”
~ Billy Joel

So last week Colin Kaepernick turned a hose on the hornet’s nest by choosing to sit during the National Anthem before a pre-season game when the San Francisco 49ers took on the Green Bay Packers. His reason was to protest the treatment of minorities by police and other groups within the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I have been a fan of the Niners since childhood. I had a SERIOUS crush on Joe Montana. I thought it was terrible when Alex Smith was traded and Kaepernick took over as the first string quarterback. But, I went with it. I thought he was a good player, but I didn’t think it was right that Smith lost his job because he was injured.

Kaepernick’s decision has sparked commentary, debate, and anger from what seems like every side of the ongoing discussion about race in the United States today. Personally, I disagree with his decision to sit down. I feel it is disrespectful to all of the members of the military and their families that sacrifice for our freedom. I love my country and I can’t imagine not standing.

The NFL does not have a policy on making players stand during the National Anthem. I know of people who do not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or the Anthem and while I disagree with their decision to do so, it is their right to not participate.

Everyone makes their own decisions. That’s what this country is all about. We need to be willing to tolerate decisions made by others, even when we don’t agree. It is when people refuse to listen to each other when we don’t agree that debate turns to hateful vitriol.

Now what?

So Kap stirred up debate across the country. He has everyone’s attention. Now what? I would hope he uses this attention to do something positive. Go into communities where you feel there are issues and start a dialogue. Listen to everyone. Respect flows both ways.

Here’s the rub…

Now here’s where things get rough. Exercising your freedom of expression can come with consequences. There are rumors that Kap may be released from the Niners. He hasn’t been performing well, but it is interesting that this rumor begins to circulate right after he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. The point to remember is that if you are going to go out on a limb you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. Some people will be supportive and understanding, while others will vocally disagree. Still others will reduce to name calling and other nonsense.

“I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage. I found that just surviving was a noble fight. I once believed in causes too. I had my pointless point of view. And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.”
~ Billy Joel

There have been times over the years where I opened my mouth in the name of what I felt was right. Sometimes the wind was with me and other times I got hit hard. I used to be a pretty serious hot head. Call it getting old (I prefer to call it “wisdom in age”), but maybe I am learning to approach things differently. I try to remember the old “honey vs. vinegar” line. I try to remind myself that I have not walked in someone’s shoes. Yes, I still get angry, but I try to stay calm and hear the other side before I spin like a top. When someone starts yelling, I stop listening, so I assume others will do the same. It doesn’t always work, but I try to remember that we are all works in progress.

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