Shut up and play

I watched every football game I could this past weekend. And I’ll do the same this weekend, next weekend and the weekend after that. I will watch every football game above the Pop Warner level between now and the Super Bowl. And no matter how many NFL players, coaches, owners, cheerleaders and/or fans “take a knee” in protest of — whatever — I will be using the TV and various other devices to absorb as much football as I can. I don’t care if the t-shirt vendors and stadium hot dog guys hit their knees when the national anthem blares from the speakers, they’re not going to ruin my experience.

I love football. And as long as they play from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, they’re welcome to take a knee, dip an elbow or turn a damned pirouette for whichever social justice cause is dominating the headlines between Kardashian pregnancies.

And that goes for President Donald Trump, as well. While his sentiments about the “son of a bitch” weren’t wrong, they were as unnecessary as they were artless. President Trump sneering at the NFL for what appears to be an ongoing effort to drive away their fan base isn’t going to drive away this fan any more than Colin Kaepernick wearing a Che’ t-shirt to the next media appearance.

I’m not suggesting that the players’ reasons for taking a knee aren’t valid; although I suspect a great many of them are motivated more by camera time than “white supremacy.” I just don’t place much stock in the socio-political theories of fabulously wealthy people who couldn’t crack 20 on the Wonderlic Test.

As NBA superstar, and human quote machine, Charles Barkley once remarked “I ain’t no role model.” As Sir Charles rightly noted, professional athletes make for poor patterns to follow. The alternative is that we all stop and ponder the wisdom of NBA superstar — and high school graduate — Lebron James, who pronounced of Trump voters “I don’t think a lot of people was(sic) educated…”

I doubt James would seek out my thoughts on his mid-range jumper. I doubt Jerry Jones wants to hear my thoughts on getting the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl (tell Garrett to get the ball to Dez more often). I care just as much about their thoughts on patriotism.

Would I prefer they all followed the example set by Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva? The dude not only served, he earned his Ranger tab. If that guy thinks the anthem is worth standing for, his teammates ought to get the hint. However, as long as they — especially the ones on my fantasy roster — play their hearts out each week, I care as much about what they do before the game as I do about what they do the following evening.

I know this is going to get me lit up like the scoreboard at a Patriots game by some of Trump’s more ardent fans — for the second week in a row — but I’m also struggling to maintain faith in a president who considers an NFL washout’s whining worth more ink than global issues; ranging from disappointing to dire. The leader of the free world has far bigger fields to play on than the NFL’s latest virtue-signaling disaster can offer.

Obamacare is about to survive another tackle, and it made the Senate Republicans look worse than a place kicker trying to bring down the return man in the open field.

His predecessor’s bumbling left the forces of liberty pinned on their own 1 yard line from Pyongyang to Paris. And there’s Still.  No. Wall.

Granted, Trump is performing better than Colin Kaepernick. He certainly hasn’t done anything to make me root for the other team, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

Like Hollywood actors and most of the people who present themselves as journalists, NFL players are entertainers. If their opinions are rooted merely in fame, their ruminations on politics mean as much to me — and should mean as much to you — as President Trump’s thoughts on the cover 2 defense. With all due respect to all parties involved: shut up and play/shut up and president. I’ll be watching.

— Ben Crystal

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