Thursday, April 20, 2017

Politics Doesn't Belong in Sports But Patriotism Does

Sports has always been a diversion transcending politics. It has brought people together, allowing them to focus on rest and relaxation, spend time with friends and family, or forget what else is going on in their lives or even the world for a few hours. Sports have always been patriotic; teams play the National Anthem before games, along with the occasional unfurling of the American flag on a field. For patriotic holidays, there is additional recognition through pre-game ceremonies, uniform changes, or breaks during the game. Following the attacks on 9/11, "God Bless America" was sung at many sporting events. In fact, the New York Yankees continue to play the song during the 7th inning stretch at home games. Patriotism, nonetheless, is slowly becoming political, and therefore, sports are becoming political. However, these acts are not symbols of politics, but of patriotism.

Patriotism and politics are two separate things. It is possible to be patriotic without being political, just as it is possible to be political and still be patriotic. Patriotism is the recognition and support of a person's country of birth, citizenship, or residence, while politics is the views and beliefs of different parties or individuals on certain issues.

The last few years have seen these distinguishments blurred. Many individuals seem to believe that to be patriotic is synonymous with being political. Thus, simply because someone is standing in honor of the National Anthem or saluting a flag implies they espouse to certain political views and beliefs. Just this week, a sports writer claimed the unfurling of an American flag at a baseball game was a political statement which did not belong in sports.

Every nation has moments in its history that its citizens would like to forget, but it is part of who that nation is. Individuals have periods in their life they would like to forget, but for better or worse, those moments make them into the person they become. The same is true with nations. Just because there was a certain event or time period in a nation's history that was not its' finest moment, does not mean that for the rest of eternity, the citizens should be repulsed at the notion of respecting and honoring the nation.

Simply standing for the National Anthem or saluting the American flag does not mean that that individual condones everything in our nation's history, every decision ever made by a president, or every law passed by Congress, rather it is a sign of respect. In fact, the United States Code actually requires each and every individual to stand at attention when the flag is being presented. (4 U.S.C. § 9.)

Sports are a time when people from all backgrounds and walks can come together to root for (or against) a certain team. It is not about democrats versus republicans, conservative versus liberal, black versus white, wealthy versus poor, or any other numerous political and social divides. It is about the enjoyment of watching players compete in a sport they love and for a team whose name they wear on their jersey.

Sports rising above politics is also exhibited in the purchase and ownership of a sports team. Currently, the Florida Marlins franchise is up for sale. There are reported at present two main potential buyers or partnerships. One such buyer is Tagg Romney. The other partnership is Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter.

This is a prime example of sports going beyond party lines and politics. Simply put, ownership of a franchise is a big deal! For one, it costs a lot of money to purchase a professional sports team. Furthermore, the owner(s) have great influence in how the franchise operates, the end goals, and the type of players they draw.

For example, George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the New York Yankees, was famous for his desire to win and draw the best players possible. He would do whatever in took to win. During the first twenty-three years of owning the Yankees, he hired and fired twenty-one managers, including Billy Martin five times. Steinbrenner also was well-known for specific requirements regarding appearances—ball players could not have any facial hair except for a mustache, and the length of their hair could be no longer than their shirt collar. However, above all was Steinbrenner's demand for excellence. Anything less than winning the Worlds Series was considered a failure. As owner, he set the tone for the organization from top to bottom. While playing in New York is demanding, ball players want to play for the Yankees because of the high standards expected. This tradition and mentality continues even today under the ownership of his immediate family.

Derek Jeter's political affiliations are not well known; he has always kept his personal life private. He did tell President George W. Bush to throw a strike and not bounce the ball when President Bush threw out the opening pitch during the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium. However, Jeter has also interviewed President Barak Obama for his website, The Player's Tribune.

Tagg Romney is the son of Mitt Romney. Mitt was the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. He was also a republican governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Of course Jeb Bush is the son of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, and brother of the 43rd president, George W. Bush. He himself was a republican governor of the state of Florida. Baseball ownership does run in the family as George W. was at one time a partner owner of the Texas Rangers.

However, none of the political background of these potential buyers really matters when it comes to the ownership of the Florida Marlins because ownership of a team goes beyond politics. What matters is that they all obviously love baseball. Jeter, having played his entire career with the Yankees, will bring the drive and commitment of always winning to the table. (On a personal level, it would be strange to see Jeter affiliated with any team other than the Yankees.) Each potential buyer is a patriotic American who loves baseball.

The fans who come to sporting games, come to hang out with friends, relax, enjoy watching their team play. They do not come for politics. I believe though it is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of spectators are patriotic Americans.

Baseball in a way is as representative of America as the American Flag or the National Anthem. The sport is often referred to as America's Pastime. Baseball, in my opinion, is as American as apple pie, hamburgers, and fireworks.

Many might argue football is more American. After all we are the only country in the world to play football the way we do. What other countries call "football," we call soccer.

Regardless of the sport though, sports in general is part of American culture. Often the team a person roots for is because of who their dad or mom or grandparent or uncle or some other family member supports. For some, it is based on the region they live. Whatever the reason, sports is part of our heritage just like the American flag or National Anthem.

While each and every player does have a Constitutional right to express his political beliefs publicly, those beliefs do not belong on the field while the player is representing his team and at times his country. It is not okay to kneel or sit down while the National Anthem is played. Politics ought to be left in the locker room, while patriotism is embraced on the field. The American Flag must continue to be unfurled on baseball fields. This is America, land of the free, home of the brave. Patriotism is always in season and should be on display in every stadium and ballpark across this great nation.