Unity, Cleveland Sports and the National Anthem

Rod Bluhm

Sports have a funny way of bringing people together, while also causing division and arguments. Our sports teams could be looked at as being similar to national and political issues. Those who are on the same side or are fans of the same team have an inherent brotherhood. If you don’t like my team during a game, I probably don’t want to have much to do with you. It’s not always that simple though. There is always some infighting within the ranks.

There has been somewhat of a sports renaissance in Cleveland over the last two years. Outsiders will argue that the Cavs 2016 NBA Championship was an isolated incident, but we know what it meant. Many of us cried with LeBron James as the final seconds ticked off the clock in game 7. It was the tonic to wash away a lifetime of suffering for many Cleveland fans. The AFC Championship losses, the World Series losses and the miserably humiliating Cavs teams of Ted Stepien all seemed to fade a bit and lose their sting.

When the city of Cleveland and Cavaliers fans from everywhere came together to the tune of over one million people to celebrate with a parade on June 22nd, 2016, it was an incredible demonstration of unity. The crowd was as well-behaved as a child who had been promised ice cream based on his behavior. People of all races and religions stood together, bumping and sharing space like family. The focus was on the exuberant feeling of winning a Championship for a city that desperately wanted and deserved one, but the beauty of a massive crowd standing together despite differing backgrounds, religions and philosophies cannot be denied.

Our country is divided on so many levels today. I realize that arguments are not always a bad thing. They can lead to progress and new ideas. Unfortunately, disagreements can also lead to fighting and unnecessary deaths in some cases. We disagree on political issues, social issues, religious freedoms and whether rights granted by the Constitution are actually being enjoyed by all citizens.

Our National Anthem has become the focus of not only the division in this country, but of many NFL fans. This phenomenon is already spreading to other sports. There are many problems with this. First of all, it creates even more division among Americans. Secondly, the Anthem means different things to different people. For our Veterans, it represents the freedom that they fought for. To minorities, it represents the freedoms they feel are not being given to them. There are also a whole lot of other people with various feelings about the Flag and the Anthem. It’s a complex issue.

One thing that we know about the U.S.A. is that we come together in tough times. You’ve all heard the stories about the World Wars. Everyone worked together to help. There were drives for rubber, scrap metal and paper among other things. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more patriotic than in the aftermath of 9/11. This country came together to fight a common enemy and to mourn the loss of far too many of our fellow Americans. This country knows how to help and how to heal.

I was in a situation several years ago, where I found myself without a job and it took some time to find a new one. In that time, I was amazed at the kindness and generosity of my friends and neighbors. I never asked for help, but people helped time after time. My neighbor’s parents, whom I had never even met, bought me a new dryer when ours died. Other neighbors got together and paid our electric bill for a month. People at my church gave me cash anonymously. It was an experience that made me emotional at the time and showed me that there is good in so many people.

There’s an old movie called “Volcano”. I saw it a long time ago, but have never forgotten the ending. A volcano erupts in a city with people all around. Explosions are happening while people run for their lives and try to help those who are injured. Ultimately, everyone has a coat of ash and soot on their clothes and skin. A child says to her mom, “Look, mommy, everyone looks the same.” The truth, as we all know, is that everyone is the same. We may not all look the same, speak the same language or think the same thoughts, but we are all the same inside. We all need to see each other like that little girl did.

This country has issues. It always has and always will. That should never divide us as Americans. We need to work toward unity. Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t take a sports championship or a terrorist attack to bring us together?

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