CHARLOTTE, N.C., November 1, 2016 – An unusual event happened on Sunday night that, in its own way, could be a subliminal indication about the mood of our country. Sundays in the fall are usually reserved for professional football with baseball taking a back seat.
Last Sunday, however, Game 5 of the World Series got higher ratings than the NFL’s Sunday Night Game.
By itself, that fact might not be significant, but the NFL has been losing ratings since the season began, and that has become a major source of concern for the league.
Many observers believe the source of the problem goes back to San Francisco 49ers quarterback sitting down during the National Anthem before a preseason game to protest police violence against blacks. Since that time, Kaepernick has resorted to taking a knee before games and other players in the league have joined him.
Perhaps it is merely cyclical, but it could also be a subtle message that the American people are tired of being bashed for just being Americans. True, Colin Kaepernick has a right, as we all do, to express himself and to make his beliefs known. Where he makes his mistake is using a platform that is available to him, and few others, as a venue to demonstrate.
Hollywood actors who accept an Oscar for giving a stellar performance in a film have the right to express their political views when they accept the award, but they exemplify total arrogance in the process.
Viewers tune in to the Academy Awards to watch their favorite celebrities. Sports fans go to a game to get away from politics and to enjoy the competition. None of them go to hear what celebrities or athletes think about the world at large. If Colin Kaepernick wants makes his opinions known, let him become a journalist.
A better way for Kaepernick would have been to hold a press conference and answer questions rather than to make a cowardly expression of defiance by using a site available to him but not to those who pay their money to watch him play.
Before Game 3 of the World Series, a native of Chicago, Patrick Stump, sang the National Anthem. Stump did such an outstanding rendition he was interviewed on NPR on Saturday. One fan even thanked Stump and told him “Finally somebody sang it right.”
There was no crotch grabbing, no synthesized instruments or any other detrimental facets to Stump’s version of Francis Scott Key’s music. Police held a huge American flag in the outfield and every player on both teams stood with their hats over their hearts. Manager Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians appeared to be holding back tears.
In recent years, baseball has been criticized for being notoriously slow. However in an age of instant replay, football has also become a contest of more standing around and waiting for official decisions than action.
Furthermore, while baseball has only made minor changes and adaptations to its basic rules over the past century, football has added so many rules that it is impossible to know what they all are. Seemingly every play has some question about a potential penalty or violation that has added at least a half hour to 45 minutes to the length of a game.
Combine those elements with additional commercials that pay the freight for the telecasts and football has begun to lose some of the magic it once had.
More importantly however, the Colin Kaepernick situation has become a microcosm of the same elements that have been dividing Americans throughout the never-ending political campaign season.
Athletes are privileged people who make millions of dollars for playing children’s games. Their fans want to see them compete and to win and to bring pride to their city.
The story of the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs has been well documented. This year, no matter how the World Series turns out, Cinderella will win the glass slipper. The enthusiasm has spilled over to both cities and that enthusiasm is translated through television screen all across the country.
In baseball this year, one underdog will come out on top. That appeals to the American people. It’s fun. It’s sport in the truest sense of the word and it is joyful.
Perhaps Colin Kaepernick should take both knees instead of one, put his palms together and be thankful that he lives in a country where he has the right to make his protest, even when he shows no class doing it.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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