The Dallas Mavericks are not playing the National Anthem prior to games, per the edict of owner Mark Cuban, and I’m not happy about it.
We are experiencing a fractured America, and sports are one distraction that helps bind us – whether it’s as Americans, Mavs fans, Colts fans, Indiana fans, or fans of any team from the junior high level to the professional ranks where the National Anthem is played.
The National Anthem provides those in attendance – and some at home – a moment to stop talking or checking the smart phone. We stand, remove our hats, reflect, and simply exist together in the same space. It provides a 90-second respite from the endless cacophony of noise and social media that engulfs us.
There is no talk about COVID, masks, Trump, Pelosi, race, religious differences, Biden, or Fauci. There is simply the song Americans grew up with, learned to sing in school, and likely would not know existed if not for the routine of standing quietly during its play prior to sporting events.
Whether or not each American feels the same level of national pride, the National Anthem signals that we are a part of a small community in an arena, stadium, gymnasium, or race track. We recalibrate our focus to the event we will soon witness, and we do it as a unit, regardless of political party, race, religion, nationality, or vaccination status.
Sure it’s a song that is hard to sing, and not all of us are compelled to profess our love for America in the same manner, but the National Anthem is about more than that, and Cuban should be smart enough to see it.
My grandmother taught me to stand for the National Anthem with my hand over my heart, even when watching Cubs games on TV. The National Anthem is rarely part of a TV broadcast anymore, but when it is I think of my grandmother. That’s always a nice moment for me. The bond between us was forged during those moment, and it’s nice to re-live it by honoring or country in the way she taught me.
Cuban is a renegade who made his money by anticipating trends and technological advances, but his humanity is lacking here as he has stripped yet another thing that connected us as human beings, regardless of our feelings about the flaws of this country we call home.
These are times when the familiar makes us feel normal if just for a minute or two, and we need to treasure those moments and build on them. There is no talk during the National Anthem – and there are also no texts, emails, tweets, or DMs. It’s just us standing quietly – together.
In the end, it might be the best part of the events we pay to see.