This isn't a post about the athletes who are kneeling or sitting during the singing of the national anthem. When it comes to that particular form of protest, I would personally prefer that they find a different way to draw attention to a very important issue, but I also recognize and respect their right to protest in the way they choose.
No, this is about the jackass who was four rows behind me at the Patriots game on Sunday and all the jackasses like him who I have seen and listened to over the years. As the national anthem began to play, this man began shouting at several fans in the seats below us who had forgotten to remove their caps, ordering them to do so in a harsh, arrogant, and unforgiving fashion.
During the singing of the anthem, mind you.
Most of these fans sheepishly removed their caps, some motioning apologies to the jackass for their mistake, but one man left his hat atop his head. Instead of removing it, he slowly turned and smiled at the jackass behind me, who was still shouting even though the world famous opera singer who was singing the anthem was at least 16 bars into the song by now.
I don't think the smiling man's refusal to remove his cap was a genuine protest. I don't think he decided to leave his cap on during the singing of the national anthem to make a statement.
I think he just forgot to take it off.
I also suspect that he was annoyed by the jackass a dozen rows up who had declared himself to be the cap police. I suspect that he - like me - thought that the decision to interrupt the national anthem by barking out orders was more disrespectful to our nation's flag than any failure to remove a head covering.
I admired the smiling man who chose to leave his hat on. I loved that guy. His was not a protest against police violence or racial disparity or economic inequality. His was a protest against the idea that the guy with the loudest voice and the thickest neck gets to tell anyone what to do, regardless of location or circumstances. His was a protest against the idea that conformity cannot be dictated by some self-righteous, self-assigned arbiter of what is right and wrong.
That smiling man's decision to leave his cap on his head and grin at the jackass was both courageous and admirable. In almost every other circumstance, I would have preferred for the smiling man to remove his cap. But when faced with a barking jackass who thinks he can dictate the behavior of others through volume and aggression, I think he did the right thing.
Honestly, I almost put my cap back on. Had I been farther away from the jackass and slightly more courageous, I might have done exactly that.
Respect for the nation's flag means removing your cap during the national anthem, but it also means shutting the hell up while the anthem is being sung and allowing people to leave their caps on if they so choose.
There's nothing more enjoyable than watching a beefy, loud-mouthed jerk be neutered by a hat and a smile.