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Kneeling in Football & Elegant Words

Is there an elegant way to use the word douchebag? I’ve tried: I think I read somewhere that Colin Kaepernick is transitioning to become an actual douchebag (zing-pow!), and I support his decision on that journey. That’s not actually even true. I don’t support him on his journey in being a douchebag.

Kneel. Stand. Lock arms. Hunker down in the locker room until the song’s over. I’ve actually lost track of what kneeling during the national anthem was supposed to mean. Is he slighting the military? Or our whole nation? Except not the part of our nation that showers him with fame and millions of dollars to play a kid’s game. Cops — I think it has to do with them. Race? And Donald Trump? A few tweets just before a weekend devoid of North Korea missile taunts and Trump is elbows into this too, ever the unifier - enough to make Barack Obama blush and wet himself.

I had finally purged myself of Facebook scrums like this with high school classmates cast across the country and with friends of friends I kind of know through one guy from jiu jitsu. And I took the bait. I wanted to. Like everyone in the thread. We each wanted our bite at someone else. Hold our own ground, change no one’s mind, lob in a douchebag zinger at Kaepernick to keep things spicy. Stew inside your own head after, while having a BBQ rib lunch with your kids on a Sunday. Then, exhausted from the whole affair, tap out, shut it all down - and vow, again, to leave it all be. Except every lead story online keeps boiling your blood about it, a slow, rolling boil and burn. God, we still have people knee deep in shit-strewn-floodwaters, literally, and kneeling at football games gets the top of the bill - again?

I get that there is injustice. Police brutality. Racial disparity. Economic disparity. Even global warming — which became “climate change” when weather started getting colder. All the things my Facebook friends of friends of my jiu jitsu friend tried drilling into me. But a professional athlete who uses his job as a political pulpit can cost him and his franchise and his league their fans and their viewers and their sponsors — and their money — and that can mean costing him his job.

It’s not about the military though — or so my FbFoF (Facebook Friends of Friends) say. It’s his right and their right to free speech that the players are exercising.

Somewhere, somehow, within the fog of flogging from the Kaepernick supporter circle-jerk, I had flashbacks… to that time I was flag bearer at my Cub Scout troop meeting, and holding that tall flag pole in the crotch-grinding belt sling in my elementary school hallway, holding the American flag, the most important one. And after scraping the ceiling tiles then dropping the flag down, THEN stepping on and sneaker marking the flag — all in a fumbling, cringing, stomach-dropping chain of events as an 11-year-old — a quiet and grayed janitor, otherwise invisible in my world, angrily and pointedly pounced and shouted me down. How dare I. Mister Janitor, how right, and I knew then, right then, how badly I was F—ing an honor ceremony up.

The American flag holds meaning, and it meant a lot to the janitor. It’s funny how when giving yourself up for something like your country — giving your life or your future or your soul — certain symbols become sacred. To him, the janitor, it must have been Vietnam, and it seemed to me, even then, that all he fought for and lost that no one regarded or respected or thought much of anymore, was wrapped up in that flag.

Our national anthem pays respect to our struggle to win freedom — and reminds us of our military now who, oceans away, continue to keep it. After planes hit towers along the Manhattan skyline, it was our first responders - firefighters and police — who joined unflinching into the terror and fray, our keepers of peace and bringers of safety, beyond expectation, who kept on keeping on, and still do, even to this day.

NFL stars clinch and tackle like warriors, but they’re not real ones, though they’re paid and strut and talk like they are. Colin Kaepernick, with your big name and fame and money to piss, I won’t support your decision on being a douchebag. I won’t stand watching you kneel. I won’t accept your disrespect of our freedom as an attention-getter for other injustice you want seen. Mister big-time QB, I think back to my childhood — and instead I’ll listen to the janitor.


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