Football season is upon us, and I’ve got the NFL Boner of a lifetime. Not like I need another excuse to eat and drink to excess on Sundays, but “hey, I’ll do what I want” and “just shut up” are starting to lose their magic.
I have lived in the Bay Area for twenty years now, but I will never be a 49ers fan. San Diego is where I was born and raised, and I bleed the blue and yellow of my beloved Chargers. I do have a standing deal, however, with the 49ers organization: If every living member of the ’94/’95 Niners team comes to my house, bows at my feet, presents me with a bottle of Premier Cru Burgundy and begs forgiveness for their Super Bowl beat-down of the Chargers, I’ll stop hating them. Maybe. Potentially. But probably not.
Regardless of my feelings, I’ve had a lot of SoCal friends ask me what I think about the recent hullabaloo surrounding Colin Kaepernick and his protest during the national anthem. After getting past the general grudge-holding vitriol and bag o’ dick-eating comments about the team itself, I really don’t have much to say about it. I understand why some people are pissed, and I understand why others support his right to protest. What I don’t get is why people are upset that his protest comes during the national anthem.
I freaking love the Star Spangled Banner. As a musician, I put it in the Top Three All-Time Greatest Songs Ever Written. I literally cry every time I sing it. The national anthem is woven into the Republic like a Cabernet stain on a wedding dress. Its genius comes from the fact that, unlike other anthems from other countries, it is the United States set to words and music. In all honesty, I couldn’t sing you any other country’s anthem (though give me a bottle of old vine Malbec from Argentina and I might give it a try), but I can tell you that Oh, Canada doesn’t go, “Oh, Canada, we nearly kicked America’s ass in the War of 1812.”
But our national anthem does. The Star Spangled Banner was inspired by a battle during that war, the Battle of Fort McHenry. This is super-American because our country was born out of war and war is basically what we do best. The melody of the song was stolen from a British song written by John Stafford Smith called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Stealing ideas, making them better and taking the credit for it is also totally American. The anthem also doesn’t make much sense at first and is hard to understand, which is as American as Common Core Math, Orange Wine and Donald Trump.
But the absolute, razor-edge genius of the national anthem comes in the very last line of the song:
Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Read that again. It’s not amazing because of its lyrical poetry. It’s brilliant because It’s a question.
The Theme Song to America demands that everyone who sings it must answer a question: Is that flag still waving? Are we still America? Are we still free? The national anthem isn’t a moment of quiet reflection and it isn’t a way to solemnly honor anyone or anything. It’s a $100-an-hour couch session with a licensed psychoanalyst who’s telling a 240-year-old revolutionary to take off the bandages and look in the mirror. Are those scars? Are they healed? Or are those open wounds?
So don’t be mad at Colin Kaepernick, whether you agree with him or not. He didn’t start this whole thing.
The national anthem did.
Democratic Self-Inventory Pairs With: 2013 Tudal Family Winery 50/50 Cabernet. As hullabaloos go, the on-going tensions between Napa and Sonoma are much like the rivalry between the Crips and the Bloods…that is, if gang members threw down wine labels instead of gang signs and ditched their Glocks for corkscrews. Winemaker Rudy Zuidema at Tudal Family Wines, however, has created a Peace Treaty in a Glass with the 50/50 Cabernet, a blend of 50% Napa and 50% Sonoma grapes. There is a lusciousness in the fruit that I find inherent in Sonoma wines, but with the signature tannic backbone of the 2013 Napa vintage. There is an amazing harmony here that’s created without diminishing the distinct characteristics of either AVA, leaving one to believe that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts.
Kind of like America.