Broadcasters should stay above the flag fray

September 29, 2017

I pay tribute to the American flag whenever and wherever there is a public opportunity. For me it is a personal activity, and it makes me feel good about being part of this great country. When I go to a sporting event, I stand and listen, remove my hat, and place my hand on my heart, maybe sing along, when "The Star Spangled Banner" is being performed. But most of all, I look at the United States flag throughout the performance. It is a "sacred" moment for me. I can understand that not everyone feels like I do.

How did we get into this mess with some professional athletes defying the request to stand, in protest, while others pay tribute to the flag? Here's how.

Apparently, not everyone has been facing the flag as expected during the anthem. I am shocked. Well, no, I am not shocked. We humans are a curious bunch. We are not satisfied to revel in the personal moment of being part of a mass celebration. We want to know if everyone else feels the way we do about the music and the flag. My eyes wander down to the athletic field to see what the players are doing. In that moment I, myself, stopped paying tribute to the flag. Shame on me. It is not what they, the players, are doing; it is what I am doing.

Now let's make matters worse. Not everyone can go to every game, so the games are televised. The networks have become willing accomplices. You miss so much when you watch the games on TV. And you only see what the network broadcast controllers want you to see. What you see during the national anthem is a variety of images around the field of various people paying a variety of tributes.

Many people don't like what the networks are showing. Some people consider it disrespectful to them. Now the media believe that watching the players is more important than the flag. I sit at home, not participating, and not seeing the American flag, because they don't show it but briefly.

Let's look at how other sports behavioral problems have been solved. Many years ago, major league baseball solved a problem simply by not showing misbehavior. When a fan runs onto the playing field, the cameras don't show it and the broadcasters don't mention it. Remember the craze where brave fans would remove all their clothes and run across the playing field and get arrested? Our sports broadcasters ought to do the same during the anthem - no, not streak.

Just don't show images of disrespect, and no one will get riled up about it. Broadcasters should do as the fans and participants are asked to do, that is, stand, listen, sing, and look at the flag. For those who don't get it, point all the cameras at the flag. Millions of home viewers will then be able to pay tribute to the flag, without interruption.

So while we are looking at the flag, or other patriotic displays, the demonstrators will not have a national audience. And the audience will not know what the demonstrators might have been doing. The focus will be returned to the flag where it belongs. And the demonstrators will be like trees falling in the woods. Soon the demonstrations will stop, because the cameras are not watching them.

If you go to the game, take it all in. If you want to honor the flag, do so. But if you don't honor the flag, you forfeit your right to complain about others who choose not to respect the flag. To armchair quarterbacks who would rather police the anthem than pay tribute to the flag, you should find something else to do for that minute. James M. Cohan wrote in 1906, "Keep your eye on the grand old flag."

George Rudgers Sr.


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