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Quick Inside Slant: Week 1

Impressions of the 2016 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

Football is finally back! Which means Cam Newton has to fear for his life again. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I generally end up on the side of the officials, but I think Von Miller actually hit him in the head with a boulder on one of those plays. Apparently, we’ve all as a society just decided that it’s OK to hit Cam Newton in the head, just like we all decided it’s OK to ignore everything the Dixie Chicks say.

Still, it’s nice to see an NFL headline that isn’t just another Deflategate hearing. Actual football was played on 16 fields in the past week. Unfortunately, before I get to that, I must address this.

Thou Doth Protest Too Much

Colin Kaepernick stumbled ass backwards into the national news this offseason by sitting during the national anthem in silent protest. While I respect his right to do this (obligatory phrase), I really don’t think he had Phase Two of his plan in mind when he started. My best guess is that he took the field, looked up at the flag, thought of the social injustice that goes on in the country, and it pissed him off. So he sat down. And when I think about it that way, I applaud his reaction. I seriously doubted he meant it to become a thing. But now it is a thing. More people have joined in, the president has made comment about it, and he has the highest selling jersey of any backup quarterback since Tim Tebow. And he himself has donated $1 million to charities and vows to give even more. Bravo, Colin. Only now, much like how Marcel Duchamp’s anti-art statements of the early 1900s opened the floodgates for bad art everywhere, everybody else feels the urge to do something.

I’m not a part of an oppressed minority, so I can’t speak to how I’d feel about the social injustice in this country through their eyes. Athletes have spoken about such things in the past and used their platform to bring up the issues they feel strongly about, but usually in a post-game interview or on Twitter. This is now an act of active dissent. Dissent against a flag that represents our country in name, but has very strong ties to our military. And as luck would have it, opening day of the NFL season happens to fall on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Uh-oh.

Quiet and civil protests during the national anthem are acceptable, but they had no place on 9/11. That was a day to honor America.

Quiet and civil protests during the national anthem are acceptable, but they had no place on 9/11. That was a day to honor America.

Perhaps now because Kaepernick started this protest, other athletes feel that if they don’t do at least something, they are complicit in these acts of injustice. I can understand that, however cart-before-the-horse it may be. Players who want to voice their opinions about social injustice are now cornered, like when somebody at a concert yells out “stand up if you want to have some fun tonight!” and then you have to put down your beer and get up off your blanket, even though you were completely having fun lounging on the Wolf Trap lawn before. The Seahawks decided to link arms, because as Doug Baldwin said, “Progress can and will be made only if we stand together.” This is a backhanded way of thumbing their nose at their 49er rivals for their individual protest. So now the forms of protest have become a competition. Awesome.

And here comes 9/11. The anniversary of the darkest day in our country’s history. The president spoke. The former president spoke. Video of the tribute at 9/11 was played in every stadium. There were planes flying overhead everywhere. Surely, this would not be a day that people would pick to promote their own agenda. That would be like – actually, there is no analogy for that. Using 9/11 as self-promotion IS the analogy for being selfish. I get that you have a cause that you believe in, but do you have any idea what happened on that day? How many people died? What that meant to this country? And however you feel about the state of the country, do you know how disrespectful it is to dishonor the flag on that day of all days? Any other day – 9/15, 9/18, 9/19 – do what you want, whatever you feel like you can to help. But not that day.

Yes, America is about freedom, and you certainly have the right to protest. Anybody can protest anything. My daughter protests eating broccoli, sometimes silently, sometimes not. Isn’t America freaking fantastic? But in the end, who are you talking to? Who are you trying to move to action? The NFL? Cops? Or is there no real thought behind it? Are you just angry and flailing and throwing rocks at a barn because it’s there? And if I hear another analyst say anything about “starting the conversation,” I’m going to throw up in my mouth again. Because the conversation begins and ends with the form of protest. Nothing is done, nothing moves. The cause – which is supposed to be the reason for all this – is barely a footnote in these conversations, much like how when we talk about James Bond, we never talk about Q, but isn’t that really what those movies are all about?

In thinking a bit deeper about this, I started to wonder why we play the national anthem before games anyway. Do we need to be patriotic to play in the NFL? What about the Toronto Raptors? It started to seem like a silly and antiquated tradition in need of some adjustment, but I’ve never been much of a patriot. I’d rather concentrate on the human race as a whole. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Patriotism is the belief your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” And after I had that thought, I watched the 9/11 tribute before the Patriots game and almost broke down sobbing, listening to Kristin Chenoweth belt out the anthem in Arizona. So maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I certainly believe you should be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t just sit there.

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Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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