The Times pokes at the raging Colin Kaepernick debate about sports and the national anthem:
Colin Kaepernick’s Anthem Protest Underlines Union of Sports and Patriotism
By Sam Borden Aug 30, 2016
The pressing question for many viewers tuning in to a preseason football game on Thursday night will be whether San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will once more refuse to stand for the national anthem.
But that question obscures some more meaningful ones:
Why is the national anthem a staple of sporting events to begin with? Why does the United States stand apart in making the anthem a part of the pregame ritual? And what does it mean to be patriotic?
Ahh, well... After a bit of background on the Kaepernick details we return to the broader theme:
Lost in that debate, though, is that while high-level sports are a type of entertainment, few other forms of mass-consumed entertainment — movies or concerts or exhibitions — have the anthem ingrained into every performance.
Tens of thousands of theater goers, for instance, have packed a Broadway musical that is devoted to the life and times of one of this country’s founding fathers, yet “Hamilton” does not feature the national anthem. On the other hand, a game between the Cleveland Gladiators and the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Football League could not begin without it.
Let me chime in before the Times turns to the experts - theatre-goers are generally all on the same side. Do Star Trek fans show up en masse to boo Star Wars openers? Are lots of Jacksonians in the Hamilton audience? I would guess not. Sports events routinely have two sides so a moment of unity prior to the commencement of activities might promote sportsmanship and diminish fan-on-fan violence.
Over to the experts:
The key words there are “in America.” No national anthems are played before a French league soccer game or a German handball league game or a Japanese rugby game. So why does the connection exist in the United States?
According to Eric Liu, a former speechwriter and adviser to President Bill Clinton who co-wrote a 2007 book on patriotism titled “The True Patriot,” the difference probably lies in America’s distinctive foundation.
Unlike a majority of countries in the world, the United States was not created on a common platform of religion or ancestry or, as Liu said, “some origin myth which goes all the way back to the beginning of history.”
Instead, Americans are bound by notions and concepts — that all men are created equal, as one example — and the ethereal nature of those ideas makes anything that Americans can latch on to concretely seem more important.
“I think that’s why this whole thing strikes so many people in such a passionate way,” Liu said. “This is not a country in Europe or Asia that has the traditional patriotic ideas built into it. We are united by a creed, and in a creedal society, the outsize rituals — like the anthem — just carry a lot more weight.”
Hmm, that may explain why we care about the anthem, but it hardly addresses the question of why sporting events but not theatre. Boo this guy off the field!