Football and Patriotism

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Last Saturday I was on a Daddy/Daughter Date with my father, something we try to do several times a year, something that’s uniquely ours. We went a preseason Denver Bronco’s game. Yay Broncos! Now going to a game with my dad is probably one of the things I treasure most in my life. I’m definitely blessed with such a wonderful and close relationship with my dad.

I remember as a little girl walking into Mile High stadium, wide-eyed and impressionable. My dad leading me to our seats and pointing out the scoreboard, showing/teaching me in great detail what it meant to be a Bronco’s fan.  I’m his cold weather daughter, so usually I’m snuggled into twelve layers of clothes and huddled around a cup of hot chocolate. But oh the first time – my very first Bronco game was in the fall, it was a warm night, those million watt lights bathing the field in white light, the smell of beer and peanuts drifting in the air.  I remember the surge of pride and passion in the fans as the team made their way out of the locker room and oh the omnipotent awe of seeing, no  feeling, John Elway walk onto the field, the surge of excitement that filled the air was like nothing else I’d ever felt.

Just before the game someone, I don’t even remember who it was or even their gender, stood on the fifty-yard line with a military color-guard standing  behind them and began to sing the National Anthem.  I can still feel the chills on my arms as 70,000 fans stood silent, their hands over their hearts, hats off their heads, riveted on the melodic notes.  It was almost as if I’d never truly heard that song until that precise moment, never really felt the pride of knowing I was a part of something so much bigger than myself.  I was an American.

I still get misty eyed every time I hear the national anthem.  It’s true.  When I see those beautiful red and white stripes blowing in the breeze I get a twinge of pride in my chest and honor in my heart.  As I’ve grown into and adult my patriotism has only gotten stronger.  In my time I’ve seen men and women go to war.  I’ve seen families devastated as their loved one came home in a flag draped box. I’ve also seen the fall of the Berlin wall, the eradication of evil doers in third world countries. I have cried with my fellow American’s when the twin towers fell, and I have cheered with them as Osama Bin Laden was finally brought down.  There is not one part of me that is not simply proud to be an American.

Those simple words, pride and American are some of the most powerful words in my vocabulary.  They rank up there with freedom, integrity, honesty and love.  I’ve never seen a battlefield, unless you consider love as a battlefield and then I’ve seen my share.  I’ve never lost someone I love at the smoking end of an enemy’s gun.  Yet I know how grateful I am for the sacrifices men and women have made on my behalf.  I’m honored to have the freedom to express myself, to voice my displeasure and rejoice in the religion of my choosing. 

However I’m tragically sad that patriotism is not nearly as respected as I feel that it should be.  At the game on Saturday I had to scowl at the person sitting next to me before she even rose from her seat, and even then didn’t bother to cross her hand over her heart.  I observed a man get to his feet at the presentation of our flag and salute it with the respect of a solider, while the man beside him reluctantly got to his feet as the first strings of our National Anthem began, and he still did not remove his cap. 

The awe and the magic I remembered from oh so long ago was somehow lost amidst this see of fans.  Don’t get me wrong I would say the majority still respected the moment, but a fair portion of my fellow Bronco fans nearly snubbed their noses at one of America’s most time honored traditions.  I came home that night and I asked myself why?  Perhaps I was just a naïve child when I gained my faith in America and it’s a notion I just can’t shake as an adult.  Or does my generation just take our freedoms for granted?  Are we living in such a high paced media driven world that patriotism is no longer “cool”? Why in this time of crisis, in these years of military policing and suicide bombers are we not more patriotic?

If that I might give every child the same experience I had with my father at my very first ball game, would there be more of an outpouring of patriotism? Would others weep at the meaning behind our American flag?  Would others fall to their knees in praise of soldiers that gave all that they had to give for my freedom?  How many others have realized that they are a part of something much bigger then themselves?  I wish I had answers and I could feel that tremendous outcry of national love again.

What is your patriotic level?  How do you feel about being an American? Or not being American?  Do you stand for the flag and put your hand over your heart?  Do you know the words to the National Anthem?  Share with me the first time you truly heard the National Anthem? Let’s talk patriotism today.

Oh and if you want to talk football we can do that too – Bronco’s Rule, everyone else drools!  

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