I just wrote almost 500 words about this National Anthem thing that’s going on. That was going to be the basis of my next article. But, after sitting and reading what I had written, I erased all of it. I realized that I don’t care. I don’t care about the actions (or inactions) of a guy whose actual job is to play a game. I don’t take my political or social cues from millionaires in tights. And, I don’t encourage my kids to idolize or mimic the attitudes or aspects of professional entertainers. Please understand that I’m not saying I don’t care about social issues. I’m saying I don’t care about the actions or words of a paid performer trying to influence my opinion. 

One of the first subjects taught in Fire, EMS, or Police academies is some variation of ethics and core values. This subject is taught first because it’s supposed to be the foundation on which you conduct yourself. If you think about it, teaching this subject at the beginning of the class mimics our own lives in that one of the first things we learn in life is right and wrong. And who do we learn it from? Our family. The direction of our moral compass is set by our parents at an early age. Do something wrong and you’re punished. Do something right or worthy of praise and you’re rewarded. It’s the most basic of concepts. 

The picture of my daughter that accompanies this article is one of my new favorites. I have four daughters. I am the only male in our household. Every now and then I like to watch football. I usually only get to watch about half of the game before the chorus of bored, complaining children forces me to relent and change the channel to Glitter Fairy Princesses or Spongebob. My wife actually enjoys watching football with me, but it has nothing to do with the game. I think she just enjoys spending time together on the couch, listening to the sweet sounds of mutual combat coming from our daughters’ rooms upstairs. I was watching a game the other night when my two-year-old descended the stairs, apparently on a break from the Royal Rumble that was going on above us. She walked over to the coffee table in the living room, seemingly oblivious to my presence. She leaned on the coffee table and watched the football game. I anticipated a request for Paw Patrol or Magic School Bus but it never came. She just watched the game. And then she actually got into the game. She threw her hands up in surprise the first time a big tackle was made. She sighed with exasperation when the referee called a penalty on one of the teams. She genuinely seemed like she was being entertained. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. No longer would I be alone in the cold, unforgiving landscape of football fandom. I now had a companion with which to enjoy the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations of football. Dare I say I was more excited than an Oompa Loompa being able to sing a new song about a kid that Willy Wonka just killed. 

Then I got on Facebook. Good feelings gone. Every other post or article was about the NFL players kneeling and why that was either acceptable or despicable. Post after post, scroll after scroll, was negativity from one side of the argument or the other. A lot of the posts I read were about NFL players being role models and how terrible it was that young kids who look up to them were going to mimic their behavior. The other side of the argument was that NFL players are in the spotlight and should be counted on to bring attention to social and political issues. So I made up a third side of the argument, one that other people have probably also made up– I don’t care. 

Football is entertainment. That’s it. It’s a game. I can understand the argument about football players being role models. There are plenty of kids (myself included) that grew up idolizing professional athletes. But there just might be somebody that kids idolize more– their parents. Just like in Fire Academy, the foundation your children build their personalities on begins with ethics and morals learned from their parents. Anybody who has kids will tell you that they pick up on more than you think. This becomes painfully obvious the first time your kid drops the F-bomb in the middle of a crowded supermarket or correctly uses the phrase “holy shit” in its proper context and cadence. And once you get done laughing, you have to put on your serious face and correct them. Which is hard to do because they don’t think they did anything wrong. Because Mommy or Daddy says it all the time. After that first embarrassing incident, I promise you’ll be more conscious of the words you use around your kids. You’ll probably also adopt some acceptable substitutions for curse words like “frick” or “dagnabit” or (my personal favorite) “Bob Saget.”

I guess the point is don’t rely on some celebrity or entertainer or athlete to set the needle in you child’s moral compass. Leave the football players to their purpose– playing a game. Show your kids right from wrong. If you think they’re ready, talk to them about some of the issues that these athletes are trying to bring attention to. But always remember, they’re counting on you to show them how to treat others and how to be the person they should be. 

One of my Brother Firefighters, Wes Baker, said something tonight that has stuck with me. And I think it’s a great quote for this particular topic–

Learn to bring hope into the situation and you will never run short of appreciation and loyal friends.

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