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Chris Gay: Patriotism and sports used to be a good thing

Posted: September 27, 2017 - 1:38am

At the supper table Monday night, my kids talked about this upcoming patriotic performance at their school.

One of the triplets is singing "God Bless America" in the near future. Immediately, I thought about one of the finest renditions of that classic, when Ray Charles performed the song before a World Series game in October 2001 in Arizona.

That and Whitney Houston's rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" before the 1991 Super Bowl are two of the greatest patriotic performances held at sporting events. These days, we can't talk about patriotism and sports in the same sentence without someone getting offended. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is still the greatest country in the world. Right? (If you disagree, Delta - like Lewis Grizzard famously put it - is ready when you are.)

Yes, millionaire athletes certainly have freedoms of speech and expression. But as I discussed with my children on the way to school Monday morning, every freedom is limited in a way.

If, for instance, our mail carrier is a Florida Gators fan, he is more than welcome to wear all the jean shorts he wants - when he's not working. If he were to slap a Florida sticker on his postal jeep and come up to my house wearing jorts, then he's likely in violation of company rules and putting himself in position to get fired. It's all about common sense, something in a limited supply in our current culture.

So Colin Kaepernick protested our flag and national anthem last year. This past weekend, NFL players protested President Trump. And I'm over here pointing out that the Atlanta Falcons are 3-0, with two really good wins on the season. The Falcons have a real shot to grab the NFC's No. 1 season in the playoffs, assuming the NFL is still around by then.

I just wish these NFL and NBA athletes hated real-world issues like domestic violence and illegitimacy as much as they hate President Trump. The world would certainly be a better place if that were the case. But I fear we're only going to continue being fed this nasty sports/political milkshake for the next seven years while Trump is running the country. (And if you think anything these sports figures say is going to make a difference in 2020, consider the impact LeBron James had on the 2016 presidential election. He supported and also introduced Hillary Clinton at a rally in Ohio. Trump won the state by eight percentage points.)

Maybe the NFL is trying to drive away all its supporters. Maybe the NBA is trying to do the same. All I know is Spring Training, for all of us Atlanta Braves fans, starts in five months. And the Masters Tournament will take place not long after that. Spring can't come fast enough, sports fans. Hopefully we'll have a little bit of winter - and some politics-free football - first.

 

FOR REAL: The Georgia Bulldogs look like they could be putting together something special this season - at least they've looked that way through a month of college football.

Georgia has defeated a pair of top-25 opponents with a freshman quarterback (Jake Fromm) who has looked sharp, a stable of talented running backs in Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D'Andre Swift and a defense that looks faster than it's ever looked.

Georgia opened this week as a 7.5-point favorite at Tennessee. The Bulldogs are seeking payback after last year's Hail Mary defeat. If Georgia wins this game, there's nothing stopping it heading into its late October matchup with Florida. That would make a wild game even wilder.

 

BRAVE NEW WORLD: It appears Brian Snitker's days as the Atlanta Braves manager are numbered. There's plenty of chatter in and around Atlanta saying he might not have been the right man for this rebuilding project. Don't be surprised if the Braves soon turn to third base coach Ron Washington, who's had some personal issues in recent years. Still, the man knows how to manage a team.

Washington led the Texas Rangers to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. It's been 18 years since Atlanta has made the World Series. It doesn't seem that long ago, but then again it does.

 

GRIDIRON GONE: It's hard to believe we're about halfway done with the high school football regular season. At the beginning of the season, I thought Harlem would be much improved, and they are.

The Bulldogs have tough tests the next two weeks against Screven County and Jefferson County. Still, I believe Harlem will make the state playoffs for the first time since 2001, when some of the football players on the team weren't born.

Speaking of long droughts, I also believe Greenbrier will get over the hump this year and make postseason play for the first time since 2003. The Wolfpack defense is really good. That defense is going to make for some quality region matchups against county foes this year.

I hope Harlem and Greenbrier each add some tougher non-region contests for 2018. There should be a lot of excitement for those programs, and a high-profile matchup with another quality team will only enhance their respective atmospheres and gates.

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POOR RICHMOND COUNTY: I live just across the county line in Richmond County and went to school in Richmond County - like many of you Columbia County residents. Maybe it's me, but I don't remember a year where football has been down across the board in my fair county.

In other words, it appears Columbia County has officially passed Richmond County in football quality - if it hadn't already done that. Some folks will say Richmond County is a basketball county anyway. That's all well and good, but football pays the bills.

No other sport comes close.

 

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