Know What You Stand For (Chapter 48 from The F*It List)

In Blog, Hustle Podcast by Eric ByrnesLeave a Comment

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” -Marcus Aurelius

I ended the 2001 regular season with 3 Major League home runs in 38 at-bats. The majority of my season was played in AAA Sacramento where I hit 20 home runs and stole 25 bases. After going up and down 4 different times through the course of the season, once September rolled around and the rosters expanded, I was back in the big leagues. My role was relatively undefined or I guess you could say pretty non-existent. I may have gotten a start or two, but for the most part, I would sit my ass on the bench and be a cheerleader until it was time to pinch run for one of the several base cloggers in the A’s regular lineup.

We were in a battle with the Seattle Mariners for the American League West title but all of a sudden everything that was happening on baseball fields across America became completely irrelevant. It has been nearly two decades since the morning of September 11th, 2001, yet I could describe the day from start to finish as if it was yesterday. I, like so many people, was essentially in a state of shock as I watched the Pentagon on fire, both World Trade Centers crumble to the ground, and a plane heading to San Francisco crash in Pennsylvania.

As the reports came in I immediately understood the magnitude of the situation and realized life as we knew it was going to change. I also realized there was a good chance that with the thousands of deaths that were being reported; somehow, I would be directly affected. Sure enough, as the morning became afternoon, my mom
called me with the news that Andy Garcia, the dad of one of my best friends growing up, was on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.

Rage is the first word I can think of that described my feelings. I wanted justice, and I wanted it in a hurry. All Major League Baseball games were postponed indefinitely. I headed to the stadium that afternoon and continued to sit in front of the TV in the locker room for hours. That night, I went to hang out with childhood friends in San Francisco; we all reminisced about Mr. Garcia and reflected on the day’s events. Common questions we all wanted answers to were: Who did this? Why did they do it? And how long are we going to have to wait until we can bomb the F*CK out of them?

We ended up at Bar None on Union Street where there was a pretty big crowd considering the day. No doubt it was a somber crew that made it out, who probably much like me and my boys were hoping a little alcohol might somehow calm the emotions and bring some sort of perspective. Right about midnight you could have heard a pin drop and the place was packed. Several different quiet conversations taking place until some dude stood up on top of the bar, put his hand over his heart, and began to sing the National Anthem.

Everybody looked stunned at first, and then within second, there was not a soul in the bar that was not singing at the top of his or her lungs. That was the first time I realized that everything was going to be okay. Americans generally are a bunch of type A, selfishly driven people who constantly scratch and claw their way to the top in any situation. There is a reason we made it over here, then miraculously took down the world’s largest army to win the right to become our own nation. We don’t like being told what to do or how to live our lives. We typically march to the beat of our own drum and we don’t like being f*cked with. Flick our ear and we will punch you in the face. This is the attitude that has defined who we are through the course of history.

Before 9-11, many baseball players and baseball fans will tell you that the National Anthem was simply a formality before games that oftentimes was looked upon by many as an inconvenience. This obviously would no longer be the case. The Star Spangled Banner took on an entire new meaning for an entire generation of Americans.

More likely than not, this is one of the main reasons you see so many people upset over the current National Anthem protests. The National Anthem has always been something that draws unity among American citizens, not something that divides us.

My first reaction to Colin Kapernick sitting down during the National Anthem was an extreme feeling of disappointment. I had the opportunity to interview Kap when I was working in radio, and I truly believe he is a good kid and he has a big heart. I also agree with a lot of Kap’s message. I believe that there is a disturbing amount of social injustice within our country and even more so around the world. There is no doubt that ACTION needs to be taken.

The problem is that sitting down during the National Anthem is a divisive action, and I truly believe the only way to fix social inequality is through UNITY, NOT DIVISION.

Kap has a unique opportunity to use his voice and his actions to bring people together. If he wants to make a real difference, he needs to take a big-time leadership role in different community outreach programs. He should use every free moment he has to speak and moderate town hall meetings across the country, bringing inner city youth and police officers together. This problem needs to be fixed at the root. Spread a message of togetherness and love, not division and hate.

The National Anthem was and still is a time where I am able to stand up, place my right hand over my heart, bow my head, and show gratitude for the sacrifices others have made for me to be able to play or watch a game that I love.

I am sure the National Anthem and the American Flag are symbols that mean something different for each individual, but there is no doubt that both represent the democratic society that we created some 240 years ago. Over the years, our country has continued to develop and grow, most of the time in a positive direction, while other times we have experienced serious setbacks. Regardless, the anthem continues to play, the flag continues to fly, and just about all continue to stand. Yet, the greatest thing about our country is that Colin Kapernick or anybody else does NOT have to stand for the National Anthem or salute the American flag. He has the freedom of speech and the right to express his message without getting thrown in prison or executed.

Ultimately, Kap and many others have made the decision to sit through the National Anthem and many have articulately expressed their reasons for doing so.

Me, I am going to stand:

I stand for democracy.

I stand for those who have fought and continue to fight for our country’s freedom.

I stand for all branches of the military.

I stand for those killed in action protecting your ass and mine.

I stand for their families.

I stand for the values and principles our nation was founded on.

I stand for our founding fathers.

I stand for our forefathers.

I stand for our government structure.

I stand for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, and Ronald Reagan.

I stand for all U.S. Presidents and the sanctity of the Presidential office.

I stand for Alexander Hamilton.

I stand for Geronimo, Sacagawea, and Sitting Bull.

I stand for Lewis and Clark.

I stand for John Muir.

I stand for Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglas, and Rosa Parks.

I stand for Jim Thorpe and Mohammed Ali.

I stand for Jackie Robinson.

I stand for Pat Tillman.

I stand to express my gratitude for working people who continue to make our country safe and operational.

I stand for public servants and government officials.

I stand for teachers.

I stand for fire fighters.

I stand for police officers.

I stand up because Colin Kapernick, and every other American citizen, has the right to sit down.

Human Crash Test Dummy Life Lesson #48

Know why you stand.

[Listen to the audio version of Know What You Stand For above, or on The Hustle Podcast.]

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