HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
November 6, 2006

Just a little respect

By Matt Kane

I don’t know if I am finally growing up, or if this third decade of life has changed me, but I, now, tend to see this world in a different light than I did maybe 10 years ago.

In recent years, usually around Veterans Day, or Memorial Day, or on the anniversaries of the invasion of Normandy or the attacks on Pearl Harbor, I usually get to thinking about the men and women who once, or still do, put on camouflaged fatigues in defense of the United States.

My line of work, as a journalist in general — not just a sportswriter — has allowed me to poke around in the lives of some of the veterans who, some in their early teens, traveled oceans away from their homelands, even though, in the back of their minds, they must have been questioning whether they would ever return home alive.

Maybe it’s because my grandfather, literally, left a piece of himself in the sands of Iwo Jima, but I have grown increasingly interested in hearing and reporting on the military lives of these men and women.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with World War II veteran and ex-prisoner of war Walter Grotz for the story that appears on the front page of this issue.

I am intrigued and, at the same time, in disbelief over what men like Grotz went through. And then I realize there are thousands more Americans who have shared similar fates during their services.

So what does this have to do with sports?

Maybe nothing at all, or maybe more than you think.

Maybe more than on any other forum, the playing fields for American sports — youth, amateur and professional — may be the biggest nationally seen stages to display patriotism. And, unfortunately, I have noticed that a lot of people who attend these games seem to take this country’s liberty for granted.

. . . And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Recognize these lyrics?

If you do, that means you know them, and you probably know the lyrics that preceded and follow them.

The people who read this column probably hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” more often than those who don’t flip through the “B” section, because it is played before just about every American sporting event, of any level, played in this country.

I applaud those who do sing the words, but that brings up another issue that is a common occurrence during high school games.

Often, the student section is, indeed, singing the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but, often, they are laughing at the way they are singing, especially during the high notes.

This just in: Butchering this country’s national anthem by trying to match Whitney Houston on the high notes is not funny.

And whatever happened to putting your right hand over your heart?

Like break-dancing, this act is a lost art in this country.

So, during this Veterans Day week, I challenge you to take seriously “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a way that will honor, not shame, men like Walter Grotz.
If singing the national anthem and putting your hand on your heart is not the cool thing to do, and if it makes you embarrassed when you do so, remember the final line to the song: . . .and the home of the brave.

Prove it.

I’m certain my grandfather and Mr. Grotz did.

Back to Matt Kane Menu | Back to Columns Menu

Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch