I have a chosen spot on the bleachers at the Lake View High School gym. Top row, where there’s a wall for a back rest, near center court. I’m a frequent enough fan and arrive at my granddaughter’s volleyball games early enough that there’s no problem with my claiming the seat. If there were, I’d just find another place. I can’t imagine there being a conflict, especially considering the other parents who are at the gym as often as I am have their own chosen spots.

We, the top-row sitters, have a grand view of the gym. We know each other, cheer on one-another’s daughters and during the warm-ups and downtimes inquire about each other’s lives beyond volleyball and the gym.

On Friday, I climbed the bleachers to my usual place with Gloria, another player’s mom. Her daughter and my granddaughter played club volleyball on the same team a year-and-a-half ago – and no matter how many times since we see each other and visit, I have a bit of a heart clutch. I was sitting on the near bottom bleacher at a gym in Lubbock, when her daughter, Angel, came after a loose ball, slipped and bounced her head on the bleacher. Angel writhed on the gym floor while the medics on call rushed to her aid, and I held her mom’s hand while we all waited on the ambulance.

It was a concussion. Angel was slowed, but hardly stopped, and in two weeks was back on the gym floor – as fierce and fast as ever it seemed to me.

So we settled in to our places Friday, talked about how our girls’ hits seemed better aimed and more successful than Tuesday, when Lubbock Coronado’s 11-foot-tall girls stuffed the volleyball down our girls’ throats. We voiced our hope for better luck, this game. And better attitudes. Then it was time for opening ceremonies.

We stood, while four Lake View JROTC students marched in the U.S. and Texas flags and stood at attention with them throughout the brief opening ceremonies. My heart tugged at how our beautiful girls stood with hands over their hearts and recited the pledges, and kept them there while a pitch-perfect recording of The Star-Spangled Banner played.

I sang along, because, I just do – though I’m never sure if I should or not. The girls, I noticed didn’t sing, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they didn’t sing because they didn’t know the song, or like me, weren’t sure of protocol. It occurred to me, being in frequent conversations with my granddaughter and her friends, how very unlikely it is they understand the anthem’s words or meanings. Lyrics written 203 years ago might as well be in a foreign language.

I am quite sure protocol isn’t that during the song one is supposed to wonder about things like who is singing and who isn’t, or why they are or aren’t.

Except, we the present-day citizens of this great country have entered such a debate about these kinds of things. Well not singing really, but standing. It baffles me. I mean the concern is legitimate, but the name-calling, line-drawing argument seems so counter-productive to what anyone wants.

My America is a good place – where I feel safe, happy, content with what my citizenship has afforded me; hopeful for a future that’s just as safe, but possibly more rational (with liberty and justice for all); where we don’t quibble about people exercising the rights granted them in the Constitution, or criticize them for a different view from ours, or – and this is huge – scream they should behave as we do, regardless of how different our complicated histories have made us.

It’s been 25 years since I’ve been to a professional football game. I don’t expect I’ll attend another one in my lifetime. Still, in the arguments over the last few weeks, I’ve wondered why we even think we have to have The Star-Spangled Banner sung at the start of a game. We’re not going into battle. The majority of game-viewers are sitting in the comforts of their own recliners, and I doubt very much they are standing.

 

If the song were taken away from the game’s start, there would be one less thing to argue about. Our nation’s president could focus on actual national problems.

 

As for me, I intend to stand and sing the national anthem any time and every time I am afforded that freedom. This is my country.

 

All others?

 

You’re on your own – yoyo – in modern speak.

 

Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com.w