When I was a vendor at Wrigley Field, this was the pro move: Whenever possible, finish selling your load of peanuts, red hots or Coke right before the National Anthem started.
That way, you could be downstairs, picking up your next load instead of wasting valuable time listening to the Star Spangled Banner.
We never thought of it as unpatriotic. We thought of it as The American Way.
That was circa 1969, when Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams were drawing big crowds and creating a great selling environment for vendors.
And now, in 2018, NFL owners have come up with a variation on that theme.
Faced with National Anthem protests that are apparently bad for business, they want those protesters down there with the vendors.
This is one of the major problems with this period in our history. We demand simple answers to questions that are not simple.
NFL ratings are down 10 percent? It must be the anthem protests. Never mind that studies show that only 3 percent of those tuning out are turned off by protests.
I happen to think that the NFL’s ratings problems stem from other issues: Bad teams in the wrong (big) markets. And a product that, despite its great potential, can be numbingly repetitive.
Unlike college football, the NFL doesn’t allow a whole lot of room for innovative scheming. Which is why, over the years, I have moved away from my big-city Chicago Bears roots to enjoy the multi-layered allure of college football.
Yes, my undergraduate alma mater, Wisconsin, tends to play a very old-school run-first, take-names-later approach. But I can appreciate the variety of offenses and defenses college football encourages. For intance, the offense of my graduate alma mater, Northwestern, which often changes its purple stripes.
The other bothersome part about this anthem-protest topic is the assumption that players who kneel are being disrespectful.
What they are doing, I would argue, is exercising their right to protest. Which is as American as the original New England patriots, Paul Revere and the militiamen at Lexington and Concord. They are showing that they care about this country by wanting to make it a better place for everyone.
This is the most American, most patriotic thing people can do: Strive to open our eyes to the fact that it’s not OK for rogue cops to go off the rails.
The NFL players who are protesting are not anti-American. They are not against the flag. By kneeling, they are standing up for people who don’t enjoy the same protection under the law as people who don’t like anthem protests.
There may be an acceptable solution to this divisive issue. But the NFL is merely creating another problem by unilaterally announcing a policy that orders protesters off the field. The owners need to sit down with the players association and talk this out.
Imposing fines when players kneel during the anthem is not going to make the protests go away—and it’s not going to bring back the ratings.
This is not that simple of a problem. No matter how much NFL owners and their “loyal’’ fans want a quick way to make this go away, life doesn’t work that way. Especially, so far, in America.