NBC Sports Writer: Tone Down The Patriotism

NBC Sports lead baseball writer, Craig Calcaterra, set off a twitter firestorm over the weekend, tweeting out a photo of the giant American Flag covering the field at Atlanta’s new baseball stadium, SunTrust Park, with the troll-bait inscription: “Will you keep the politics out of sports please.

We like sports to be politics-free.”

Calcaterra, who tweets frequently about politics as well as baseball, was eager to tweak his detractors who gripe about his blend of left-wing politics with his day job, and followed up with a lengthy post on the topic Sunday evening.

The author laments that while patriotic displays surged during World War 2, they “subsided” after the war was over, but no such subsidence has happened since 9/11. Well, yeah. World War Two ended in 4 years. 15 years after 9/11, we still have soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines deployed and engaged in active combat operations against the enemies we saw that day. While we all might understandably be fatigued with that conflict, it’s still ongoing. Wars don’t end because ‘baseball’ writers grow weary of them.

Calcaterra argues simultaneously that political dissent shouldn’t be treated as unpatriotic (and I agree), but he then weds his political dissent with an appeal to show less patriotism. Now we are back in Colin Kaepernick level incoherence. Words mean things. Patriotism means love for your country. If your political critique of your country starts with: “I get angry when I see my country’s flag”, you don’t get automatic immunity from others questioning your patriotism. You are destroying the base of commonality with those who you disagree with, before you even start the discussion.

The writer’s point that the display of the flag is political, is sadly true. But it shouldn’t be. The problem isn’t who’s displaying it, or how often, but the left, who is increasingly complaining about it. The displays of the flag, and the singing of the national anthem prior to sporting events is intended to be a unifying moment. Red Sox and Yankees fans, Broncos and Raiders fans, singing the same anthem, to the same flag, before they try to crush the other one’s dreams. We live in an increasingly diverse country, ethnically, religiously, and ideologically. We need to be able to argue about serious, important stuff, and still get along. Sporting events, and the accompanying flag displays, national anthems, and flyovers should be a rare, helpful moment, where Bernie Sanders voters, Trump voters, and even Evan McMullin voters can be on the same team.

No one is required to swear allegiance to a flat tax, or 35% cut to the EPA’s budget before the game. That would be political. A big American flag in the outfield isn’t. It’s a Rohrshach test that Mr. Calcaterra, along with a lot of his friends on the left, are failing.

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