[jessica, this one's for you.]
so apparently there's a soccer team in portland, oregon. i guess that makes sense. portland's a fun, chill, liberal town with athletic types in it, from what i've seen of it. now, i really could not give a damn about soccer. as much as i love sports of all kinds, i just can't get down with it. it bores the hell out of me. run, run, run, run, kick, run, fall down for some reason, run, maybe score, run, and then out of nowhere, there are between two and five mystery minutes added to each half for no apparent reason. it makes no damn sense.
but leaving that aside, the timbers did something cool to open their home season, something i'd never seen before. instead of trucking out some d-list celebrity, tweenage pageant queen or american idol castoff to butcher - er, honor america with the national anthem, they had the crowd sing it. 22,000 people in unison, enthusiastically and boisterously belting out our nation's theme song? man. i had chills watching it. usually, it's just a perfunctory thing when they sing the anthem in public, often augmented with totally unnecessary jingoistic macho. you don't really feel connected to it. but this? good grief. i loved every second of it. made me especially proud to be an american.
so you can imagine my SHOCK when veteran sportswriter bob ryan chose not to embrace this display when it came up on around the horn on friday. in fact, he lost his freaking mind. it's a joke. it's a civic joke. the people of portland PLANNED this. it wasn't patriotic. every other panelist loved it. even crazy woody paige said it was patriotic. tony reali, the host, is visibly shocked in the video when ryan snapped. basically, bob ryan accused the entire city of portland of mocking the national anthem, and by extension patriotism. look. crotchety old dudes will be crotchety old dudes. this is understood. but to accuse an entire city, especially one known for its pervasive liberalism, of being anti-patriotic, mocking america, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? unacceptable. watch the video and see for yourself.
i can think of only one other instance in my life when the anthem hit me like this one did. y'all of course remember september 11, and undoubtedly remember the dull, numb shock that we were all wrapped in for days thereafter. i was twenty years old, a senior in undergrad. through the fog of the general tragedy, though, came the sharp, acute pain of losing a friend, a guy two years older than us who worked at cantor fitzgerald. everything shut down that weekend, including college and pro sports. however, our tiny little mountain school decided to go ahead with that saturday's game. normally, next to no one ever went to games; division III football is nothing to write home about. but the entire school dressed in its finest and filled that stadium that day. we all wore black ribbons in honor of our dead friend. i will never forget how, in the words of bruce springsteen, the sky was still that same unbelievable blue that it always is in the mountains of virginia in september. usually, at these games, the anthem was a canned marching band, fwonking away the notes of the song. meh. but that day, all 2,000 people in that crowd, arms wrapped around each other, tears streaking down our faces, belted every note as if it was the last thing we'd ever do. the roar that went up from that crowd echoed off of the blue ridge and reverberated through every inch of that town.
so to say that a crowd's boisterous enthusiasm is a civic joke rubs me 100% the wrong way. to read anything other than love and joy into that demonstration is to hold a view of the world that's dangerously cynical. or more insidiously, it's to assume that liberals can't be patriotic. ever. and that is WELL beyond the pale. bob ryan? you're a jerk. look at that video one last time and tell me that's not love. that crowd is the living embodiment of patriotism, organically grown.
Letter 70: Be Louder
5 days ago