What is it about Americans that we compete for everything - especially among ourselves?
It was 10 years ago this month that the Atlanta Braves went to the playoffs, for the first time making a worst-to-first run in the Major Leagues, before losing to the similarly worst-to-first Minnesota Twins in the World Series.
It was such a big deal that The Chronicle rented the Augusta Civic Center so area residents could watch one of the playoff games on big-screen televisions. It was a blast to be part of the excitement, with a big crowd creating a stadium-like atmosphere. It was almost as good as being at the game.
But rather than bring about fan unity, there was a troubling aspect of the playoffs. It was a distinctive strain of Im-a-bigger-fan-than-you are: Out of the woodwork came people bragging about how long they had been Braves fans, puffing out their chests and pointing to ticket stubs from the lean days when Dale Murphy hit homers and the rest of the team hit bottom.
Hats were the most visible sign of this fan oneupmanship. The Braves had changed the design and colors of their caps; real fans had the old-style hat. The fair-weather fans, the ones who had just jumped on the bandwagon, wore brand-new hats, bearing new colors and unstained by time.
Me, I was just glad to get a new cap. I still have my two old ones, and man, are they hideous.
Some of those one-uppers are probably the same folks now grousing about all the people who suddenly are flying flags from their homes or cars. Attempting to out-loyal the fair-weather patriots, these flag-wavers boast that theyve always had a flag in their yard, one they always take down at night or in bad weather - unlike their obviously less-American neighbor, who stood in line to get a new flag within the last couple of weeks, put it up on a shiny new pole and hasnt taken it down since.
And besides, they say, what happened to asking God to bless America before now, huh? Only get religion when were scared?
And what about those people stealing flags? these uberpatriots ask. They oughta be shot. What kind of lowlife would steal the symbol of our proud nation?
Please, folks, take the jingoism down a notch.
Did you just get a flag? God bless you. Have you always had one? God bless you. Dont have a flag? Get some crayons and draw one if you cant afford the prices charged by good ol opportunistic American capitalists, and let if wave. (Or stop by American International Printery in Martinez; theyre giving away flag window decals - free.)
Lets not begrudge the foxhole faithful or the fair-weather patriot. After all, how many cancer activists get involved until they are somehow touched by the disease? How many activists for any cause lack personal experiences that propel their interest?
If the now-one-month-old events of Sept. 11 bring a few more people, if only temporarily, into the patriotic fold, lets welcome them with open arms and waving flags - not with red, white and blue snobbery.
A Navy connection
One of the more stirring portions of this past weeks memorial service at the Pentagon was the roll call of victims, which scrolled on giant video screens while the U.S. Navy Band played Amazing Grace.
No one was prouder than Cheryl Williams, a Columbia County native and new manager of the Evans Diner. The rendition of the famed hymn featured a solo melody line played by her son-in-law, Tim Roberts, who is first chair saxophone for the Navy Band.
Tim lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife Corene - who is the daughter of Cheryl and her husband, Terry, both of whom are Evans residents.
(Barry L. Paschal is opinions editor of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@ yahoo.com.)
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