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When Sports had Heroes

We lament the pathetic behavior in sports today with spoiled children earning millions bouncing a ball while involved in less-than-honorable activity off the field. But 32 years ago we had a real hero in sports. Younger people don’t remember when sports actually had role models, but we remember this event well. If you remember the horrible 70’s, the Carter administration flops and more, this event stands out in an era of stagflation and despair — Rick Monday saving the flag from a pair of idiots trying to burn it at a baseball game.

In 1976, a sense of ennui had gripped the nation. In a year-long bicentennial celebration, many wondered if the economic stagnation that had lasted all decade meant that America’s best years were in the rear-view mirror. The commercialized bicentennial festivities felt forced and false. It seemed that pride in our country had dissipated into cynicism and retreat.

The unprompted, extemporaneous response to Monday’s heroics is the often untold story of that day. Over 40,000 baseball fans saw Monday risk his career by grabbing what could easily have been a fireball to rescue the American flag from a couple of asshats, and suddenly it recalled the real patriotism and passion for America that had been missing in 1976. At first in isolated pockets but soon sweeping around the stands like The Wave would later do, Americans stood up and sang “God Bless America” — not prompted by the stadium organist but fueled by love of country.

Unfortunately, we talk to too many people who don’t remember this event (or don’t care), so it’s worth watching the video. It’s the greatest sports non-sports story around. (The best sports play of all time being Kirk Gibson’s home run — with Vin Scully doing the play by play).

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