Author’s note: Mom + Pop Culture are a couple of real characters. They could be you and me. Or not. Every so often, I eavesdrop on their conversations. Let’s listen in on what they’re saying right now about the controversial body language of professional athletes.
MOM: Game’s on, Pop.
POP: Thanks, Mom. I must’ve dozed off.
MOM (sotto voce): For a change…
MOM: I said you need to change the channel.
POP: Oh, yeah. Where’s the remote?
MOM: Search me.
POP: We could do that later, you frisky thing you.
MOM: You’re probably sitting on it.
POP: Yep. Here we go. Just in time for the anthem.
POP: What “oh-oh”?
MOM: These days, that’s like a land mine on the field of battle.
POP: Tell me about it. Some people just don’t get it.
MOM: Which people?
POP: The millionaire warriors.
MOM: What don’t they get?
POP: Like the old song says, “Stand up, you’re rockin’ the boat.”
MOM: You mean the song that goes, “Sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat,” from Guys & Dolls?
POP: That’s my point. In this case, they’re rockin’ the boat when they’re not standing up.
POP: Because it’s disrespectful to not stand.
POP: Because everybody else stands.
POP: Because it’s respectful.
MOM: You’re not standing right now, though.
POP: You’re right. (Stands up.)
MOM: Very nice. But you never do that any other time the anthem is playing on TV.
POP: Well, I’m at home.
MOM: You stand for the flag and the anthem only when in the middle of a crowd of people, who can see what you are doing? Is that the rule?
POP: There is no rule. It’s common sense. It’s common decency.
MOM: When did kneeling become indecent? We do it in church. Was there an executive order I missed?
POP: This isn’t church, is it?
MOM: On Sunday, the way some of the more fanatical fans act, it sure seems like their church.
POP: Nonetheless, we kneel in the pews because we are worshipful, and we stand in the stands because we are proud to be American. We are thankful to be American. We are lucky to be American.
MOM: Amen. That’s how I was brought up. My dad—may he rest in peace—as you know, was a proud World War II veteran. Until the day he died, he stayed close to his Army buddies, who fondly called him “Sarge.”
POP: That’s what I’m talking about. Now that is something very special. A great guy, your dad. I used to love watching the games with him.
MOM: He love watching with you. Somehow, I don’t recall him standing at home during the pre-game ceremony, do you?
POP: No. But What’s your point?
MOM: If my dad were standing here today, Pop, he would tell you something that might surprise you.
POP: What’s that?
MOM: My dad would tell you that one of the things he fought for in World War II is to protect the right of American citizens to decide for themselves whether they want to stand up for the flag and the anthem… or, for whatever reason, not do that. Freedom of choice, he’d say. Sitting down, he’d tell you, don’t mean squat. The position your body is in isn’t a yardstick of your patriotism. My dad didn’t arbitrarily judge people like that. He believed patriotism, in part, meant having a mind open and fertile enough to tolerate differing points of view.
POP: That’s all well and good, I’m sure, but if you can’t conform to appropriate behavior, as defined by the masses, you must suffer the consequences.
MOM: What might those be?
POP: Consequences present themselves, sometimes when you least expect it.
MOM: Sounds threatening.
POP: Oh, well. Not my problem.
MOM: But judging those who take a knee for reasons of their own… that IS your problem?
POP: Darn tootin’.
MOM: Sounds like one of those countries where democracy is a dirty word. Where the powers that be tell you how to behave—or else.
POP: That’s fascism.
MOM: You said it.
POP: Can you grab me a cold one, Mom?
MOM (sotto voce): Kiss off.
MOM: I said they’re getting ready to kick off. I’ll see you Monday.
Bruce “The Blog” Apar is sole proprietor of public relations agency APAR PR and is a partner in Adventix, which helps performing arts venues increase ticket sales. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.