One of the great things about the Olympics is seeing the unabated pride of a gold medal athlete when Old Glory is hoisted and the anthem is played. Major League Baseball players should take note.
I get it; you guys go through pre-game rituals 172 times every summer and some of it has lost its meaning on them. But that doesn’t mean that during the National Anthem you get to chew gum, talk to your friends, shuffle your feet, check your Facebook status, wink at your girlfriends, scratch yourselves, or do anything that would come across as showing anything other than complete respect for our country, our flag, and those who sacrificed so much to allow you to stand on that diamond and make a luxurious living playing a game.
It might be just another of 172 games to you, but it’s the only game to a lot of people and can mean the world to them. The guy singing the Star-Spangled Banner is giddy and nervous beyond measure for his one chance to sing in the big leagues. The color guard is honored to hold Old Glory in front of 40,000 people. A specially selected person gets to throw out the first pitch for the one and only time he or she ever will. The young guy in the sweet seats behind first base is freaking out at how much he spent in the hopes of impressing his date. These people found it in their hearts to spend their hard earned money to support and respect you. Take a moment to do the same.
It’s not even three minutes. Even in this attention deficit world, you can stand still, be quiet, and dedicate three minutes of your precious life to those who sacrificed so much for it. Maybe in that time you’ll find a little pride in being American and some pride in the country that gave you the opportunity to be someone better than you would have been anywhere else. Maybe you’ll shed a tear like the rest of us.
Think about the people watching you and the kind of example you’re setting for them: veterans who have sacrificed for that flag, kids who dream to be like you, and the plain old hard working patriotic citizens who sing every word. You used your abilities to earn a spot in the show, and I’m eternally proud of you for it. Because of you, I get to forget about life for a few hours to cheer you on as I dream of being out there myself. But more importantly, I’m proud of the country that gives adults the opportunity to make ten times the national average income to play a game. Now return the favor show some respect for it. All 172 times.
Olympic athletes are proud and reverent. They yearn to hear the national anthem played after they’ve won their event because it’s a reward in itself. Maybe that’s what Major League Baseball needs to do. Maybe the winning team gets the privilege of staying on the field and listening to the anthem while the other team heads to the dugout. Maybe the anthem needs to be a reward instead of automatic. It’ll never happen, but it would make it a little more special for everyone if it did.
Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”