David White

Anthem is about more than pregame routine. Just ask fans at Friday night’s softball game

Watch how crowd reacts when they announce no national anthem

Before the Central Section Division I softball championship, it was announced there'd be no national anthem. But this crowd at Fresno State's Margie Wright Diamond didn't approve of that message so they stood sang the anthem in a cappella.
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Before the Central Section Division I softball championship, it was announced there'd be no national anthem. But this crowd at Fresno State's Margie Wright Diamond didn't approve of that message so they stood sang the anthem in a cappella.

A national anthem protest? From the way of life that is Clovis, U.S.A.?

You bet Betsy Ross’ sewing machine they protested.

When an official announced they would not play the Star Spangled Banner before the Clovis-Buchanan softball game Friday – twice! – well, you may as well have let Kim Jong Un throw out the first pitch dressed in nothing but an Iron Curtain.

No anthem? Nice try. Hundreds of softball fans took to their feet and spangled away, singing the anthem a capella while the players on the field stood at attention toward the centerfield flag at Margie Wright Diamond.

Because, ’Merica, that’s why.

“Honestly, I was shocked (when) the announcer stated, ‘There will be no anthem, let’s just play softball,’” said Tiffany Marquez, who drove to the game from Fowler and posted video of the makeshift choir on Facebook. “Within seconds, you could hear people in the crowd singing and the volume of their voices building. There I was, standing in the middle of a true testament to unity and patriotism.”

Oh say, can’t you see? The national anthem and the flag it adores still matter to a whole lot of people, and they take it personal when anyone comes between them and the star-kissed stripes. Some are obnoxious, ugly Americans, no doubt. Most of the others happen to think you can stand against social injustice (we do) and stand for the national anthem (we do, too).

Since when did the concepts become so mutually exclusive? Does anyone think anthem protests have started anything more than an argument that can’t be won?

That’s why the crowd booed, and then they sang. These people are standing this post ’til the day they die.

The NFL gets it, which is why it is now telling players to stand for the anthem or keep it in the locker room.

The NBA understands, which is why its stand-or-else mandate is the toughest in pro sports.

A meaningful swath of Everyday America believes it, too, enough so to pick Are You Kidding Me Trump as their Free World Leader if that’s what it takes to defend their notion of a national fabric.

Athletes can assert their right of free speech in the home of the brave, but everyone else has the right to free speech it right back at them.

Athletes can’t have it both ways.

They can protest all they want, but if the time and place turns their target audience against them, then what good is asserting a right when it doesn’t help make things right?

Anyone else notice that nobody rages when Colin Kaepernick gives his money and time to social issues and justice projects? Don’t you get it?

You’re never going to win middle America by protesting against the flag at a sporting event. Not when you get paid millions to play before fans who make thousands.

That brings us back to Margie Wright Diamond.

There’s a reason the crowd at Friday’s softball championship game stood up and sang when the announcer told them two times there would be no anthem.

No one cared that the anthem was already played before the previous game. It mattered not that they almost never play the anthem multiple times at these bunched-up championship weekends.

This is America. On Memorial Day weekend. When the flag is flying on every Main Street lamp post from here to there and back. Just days after the NFL’s new anthem policy got the national fistfight all roiled up again in the Case of Flag v. Speech.

When I saw the Facebook video, shared by a friend of a high school friend, it unclogged my congested heart.

My mother’s family came to Selma from Michoacán, Mexico. They marched against the inhumane work conditions in the fields, but always stand for the American flag at the Fourth of July show at Staley Stadium.

The flag and its musical ode still means something to me, even in a country that has gone so far south of my own moral compass. Glad to see I’m not alone in feeling this way.

“It just didn’t make sense not to play it,” Marquez said.

Three-point stance

1. Before there was Stephen Abas, there was Eddie Davies going 90-1 as a Fresno State wrestler way back when. The school’s 1963 Athlete of the Year passed away this week from cancer. Consider him one more guy happy to see with his own eyes that Fresno State wrestling is back.

2. Warriors coach Steve Kerr criticized the NFL for telling players to stand or stay in the locker room this week. Even as his NBA players are forced by rule to stand. Isn’t that cute?

3. Be it far for us to root for the Pac-12 in anything, but when no West Coast team has won the Women’s College World Series in six straight years? After owning 24 of the previous 30? Viva Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, anyone but another SEC team.

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