07/03/13 — Local opinion: National anthem more than just words

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Local opinion: National anthem more than just words

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 3, 2013 1:47 PM

As a kid my favorite part of attending any sporting event usually centered around catching a foul ball, trips to the concession stand and spending quality time with my dad.

Like a lot of children, I grew up thinking the playing of our country's national anthem prior to sporting events was important, but that it was also one more hurdle to clear before the real fun began.

Time, maturity and a great sense of appreciation for what this nation's flag and it's anthem represent have changed my favorite part of sporting events. I still love game-changing plays, a good ballpark hot dog and the annual "guys college football trip" with my dad and brother-in-law.

Those things have just taken a back seat to Old Glory as my favorite part of attending games in person.

As a sports writer, I hear the anthem more times in a given month than I could possibly remember. Whether "The Star-Spangled Banner" is sung live or pre-recorded, it never fails to immediately take my mind to the brave men and women who have, and who currently fight, to protect all that it represents.

My thoughts normally drift to my grandfather, Wilburn Foster, who earned a Purple Heart after being wounded during World War II. I remember my brother-in-law Matthew Brannock, a former Virginia State Trooper, who was wounded in the line of duty on Memorial Day in 2011. I also think of one of my best friends, Daniel Domino, who was deployed several times while being stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The anthem also causes me to remember that living in Wayne County means that at most sporting events there are athletes with parents or family members who would love to be there, but are away serving our great nation.

The national anthem brings to mind that regardless of what team we root for, the color of our skin, what we believe or how we vote, as Americans, we are all part of something bigger. It helps me focus on the fact that sports, whether we play them, cheer for those that do or simply write about them, really are just a game.

The next time you find yourself at a sporting event tempted to berate an official, heckle an opposing player or whine about the price of admission, just remember it wasn't your ticket that really got you through the gate.

It was freedom.