Stand­ing up for our an­them

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - By ED OKONOWICZ Spe­cial to the Whig

ELK­TON — “I had a great week­end,” Cuffs said, of­fer­ing a rare smile in his pri­vate booth in Jimmy’s North Street Ho­tel saloon.

“Hit the daily num­ber straight again?” asked Billy Bibbs, one of Cuffs’ Crew and a fel­low tav­ern reg­u­lar. “Nope,” Cuffs replied. “Get an in­her­i­tance, or win Pub­lisher’s Clear­ing House?” Bibbs pressed.

“Noth­ing like that,” Cuffs ex­plained. “Had a pleas­ant Sun­day af­ter­noon, en­joyed the great out­doors, and left mod­ern so­ci­ety’s silly, stress­ful non­sense be­hind.”

Join­ing in the con­ver­sa­tion, I of­fered a clever quip. “That means you def­i­nitely didn’t waste your day watch­ing the an­them- kneel­ing, Red Rover- arm- link­ing, look- at- us- we- have- a- cause, dis­gust­ing Bal­ti­more Ravens.”

“Nope,” Cuffs replied calmly. “They’re dead to me, and have ab­so­lutely no chance at be­ing for­given.”

“You still up­set about that stu­pid­ity when they dis­hon­ored Old Glory on for­eign soil? Knelt for our an­them and stood tall for ‘ God Save the Queen’? ” Bibbs asked. “Be­cause, to me, too, that re­ally was a kick in the gut. Lost all my re­spect for them, and for pro foot­ball in gen­eral, when I saw that hap­pen.”

Nod­ding, Cuffs said, “That was the cap­per for me, too. But I’ve been fol­low­ing them less and less over the last few years, mainly be­cause of their lousy play. But when our whin­ing, over­paid mil­lion­aires con­tinue to lose games — plus, push their anti- po­lice, anti- USA pol­i­tics in my face — I de­cided I could do more pro­duc­tive things on Sun­day af­ter­noons.” “Like what?” I asked. “Rake leaves. Clean up the yard. Wash the car. Go out to a res­tau­rant — as long as it doesn’t have any NFL games on its TVs. Like I said,” Cuffs in­sisted, “our lo­cal team, its coach, and the whole spine­less league, com­mis­sioner, and own­ers are dead to me. And I’m not alone on this.”

“I hear ya,” Bibbs said. “Heard some clever guy on the ra­dio say NFL now stands for ‘ No Fans Left.’ ”

Adding to the con­ver­sa­tion, I said, “I read some­where that John Wayne once said, ‘ I’d ask the band to play my fa­vorite song, but then ev­ery­body’d have to stand up.’ ”

“Here’s to the Duke!” Bibbs said, rais­ing his glass. “Lately, I been watch­ing the CFL — Cana­dian Foot­ball League — on my com­puter. And that works fine for me. No drama. No con­tro­versy. Less show- boat­ing by over­paid prima don­nas. And their games are pretty good. Af­ter you un­der­stand their odd­ball rules.”

“Well, I’m stay­ing lo­cal,” said Cuffs. “Went to my nephew Ral­phie’s Lit­tle League baseball tour­na­ment, over in South Jer­sey, for the last few weeks. Calm af­ter­noons. Old- fash­ioned, small town set­ting. Noth­ing po­lit­i­cal or con­tro­ver­sial to ruin my mood.”

Bibbs and I nod­ded, pic­tur­ing the serene scene in our mind.

“But there was one in­ci­dent in­volv­ing our na­tional an­them that stood out,” Cuffs said.

In­stinc­tively, ex­pect­ing a prob­lem, Bibbs asked, “Some­thing hap­pen that ru­ined your day?”

“Nope,” Cuffs said, smil­ing, “just the op­po­site.”

Elk­ton’s ornery or­a­cle ex­plained that he had ar­rived at the baseball game dur­ing the sec­ond in­ning. Af­ter tak­ing a seat in the bleach­ers, he — along with other spec­ta­tors — were dis­tracted by the sound of recorded rap mu­sic com­ing from a youth foot­ball league com­plex, lo­cated about a half mile away.

“You could hear the mu­sic more than see its source,” Cuffs said. “A dense sec­tion of for­est sep­a­rated our ball di­a­mond from the pigskin com­plex. But af­ter about 15 min­utes, and you got into the game, you didn’t no­tice the ag­i­tated, rap sounds — like you did when you first ar­rived.

“Then sud­denly, in the midst of the fifth in­ning of our game, all ac­tion on our field stopped. Re­spond­ing to a fa­mil­iar pa­tri­otic tune, the young play­ers and their coaches took off their hats and put their hands over the hearts. As did ev­ery par­ent, spec­ta­tor, and visi­tor in the bleach­ers, plus those seated along the side­lines.

“We all stood at at­ten­tion and showed re­spect for our ‘ Star Span­gled Ban­ner,’ ” Cuffs ex­plained. “No one had to is­sue a com­mand or sug­ges­tion. Our re­sponse to the sa­cred song was just in­stinc­tive. The proper thing to do.”

“But it was com­ing from an­other field, a half- mile away?” asked Bibbs.

“Right,” Cuffs an­swered. “But the pure beauty of the mo­ment was that it was their an­them, for the start of their nearby foot­ball game. But it also was our an­them, too — and any­one else’s within hear­ing dis­tance.

“So the all the play­ers, and spec­ta­tors at Ral­phie’s game,” Cuffs added, “stopped and showed the proper re­spect for their flag and their coun­try.” “Just like ever yone used to do,” I said. “Right,” added Cuffs, in a slightly dis­ap­pointed tone, “just like ev­ery­one used to do.”


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