Colin Kapernick Can You See?

 

Anyone who has ever attended a Baltimore Orioles game knows that we Orioles fans are famous for shouting “O!” during the singing of the National Anthem.

This, of course, can be heard the loudest in our home Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, but many of us have heard it on the road from Miami to LA. One is less likely to hear it any of our AL East rival cities like Boston or New York, but we yell it anyway to many dirty looks.

When it comes to the National Anthem, I tend to be a traditionalist. Protocol and etiquette are important to me. I admit to feeling slightly guilty yelling “O!” during the singing of such a sacred national song when one should technically be standing at attention.

Meanwhile, Colin Kapernick, a football player for the San Francisco 49’ers has decided not to stand at all.

That bothered me. A lot. I said a lot of uprintable words about it. I may have even suggested that he book a one way flight to North Korea and see if he likes it better there.

But then I realized that if I am truly an American, I am obligated to accept the fact that he is exercising his Constitutional right to public protest.

Asked why he refused to stand for the National Anthem he stated to NFL Media: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way….” 

Why, just outside our lovely little brick-lined Oriole Park at Camden Yards is one example of that of which he is speaking. The place where Freddie Gray, an unarmed African-American man died last spring in police custody, sparking rioting and violence in the City of Baltimore. An issue, of course, not exclusive to Baltimore.

If Kapernick’s intention is to bring more light to these issues in the hope of finding solutions, then good.

But I see the National Anthem differently. To me, it represents something much bigger than the issues before us today. It is a fight song. It says that despite the perilous fights before us, despite the bombs bursting in air, we can prevail.

While we are far from perfect, we are still the best deal in the world.

For that reason, I will always stand.

“O!” say, can you see?

Dodger Stadium:A Sacred Space

“I don’t see it. I don’t…There it..there it is turn left turn left turn left right there where it says “Vin Scully Avenue.” VIN SCULLY AVENUE? My heart was pounding. My head was spinning. Two airplanes, two time zones, 2,661.7 miles from Baltimore and finally, we had arrived.

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It sat like a deserted shrine at this time of day, save a few workers conversing in Spanish, quietly tending to the field and painting white stripes on the mound. “Do not step on the grass!” the tour guide implored. For a moment I was tempted to reach down and secretly pick a small handful to keep as a memento, to reassure myself that I was in fact not dreaming, to reap some kind of blessing from its beauty and perfection, but decided not to.

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Here it was in all of its pristine splendor, silently waiting to be graced by the agile feet of the most elite players of the game. To be surrounded by the throngs of worshippers in the stands.

It was the Fourth of July and who better to tell the Baltimore-based story of the National Anthem than that preacher of baseball, Vin Scully himself:

Yasiel Puig entered the area near the on-deck circle. I watched him closely and intently. He kneeled and made the sign of the cross with a small necklace, hanging his head. I thought of his journey as a Cuban defector just trying to make it to the United States to play baseball; police pulling over his car, a boat that failed to arrive, police raiding his safe house and detaining him for six days, being intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard then taken to Mexico by a murderous drug cartel and being sold to a wealthy Floridian who would receive a percent of his future MLB earnings. He stood and made a large cross in the dirt with his bat. His cleats bearing the American flag made all the more poignant by his story.

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Being so far from home, I was overjoyed by the sight of my personal guru, the sage, the teacher, the all-knowing Zen master:

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And look! – One of our saints! (at least to Baltimore fans!)IMG_2409.JPG

Like religious spaces, our nation’s ballparks provide the sacred spaces we need to transcend and temporarily escape the ugly realities of our world. There are all kinds of people here. Black, white, asian, latino, male, female, young and old. In this holy space we are all the same. Baseball fans.

The only wall we care about is just beyond the outfield.