This morning I read a post from an old high school classmate who slams the NFL for its arrogance, its disregard for country, flag, and constitution. She claims NFL stands for “Not for long.” She talks about how the phrase came to her the night before while lying in bed.  I wonder if she knows that phrase has already been used by people giving financial advise to young rookies coming into the NFL, not for long referring to the short life expectancy of an NFL career, a career that can end in a single play, that will end as soon as someone younger, faster, better, comes along—and for most that won’t be long.

A friend of my old classmate chimes in with her the NFL stands for the “Negro Football League” as if that in itself was an indictment. I am reminded of Stanley Crouch’s sermon “Premature Autopsies” where the sound of blues merges with an old spiritual sermon that seeks to create a bridge between the lost and the lame with the majesty and nobility that exists in the true meaning of democracy. The voice cries out against the money lenders of slavery who never knew the difference between an office and an auction block, between the sacred and the profane—the old dragons who think themselves so grand. Now it seems the old dragons have come crawling out of their caves. We thought them dead, but they were just sleeping and waiting. They snarl at the arrogance of the old slave and servant class—get the son of a bitch off the field, the grand dragon himself belches.

The poet sips his coffee, listens to the ache in his muscles. The dragon blocks the sun, but the noble sound gives one hope.  It also, that noble sound, calls one to stand against the dragon. Or kneel in a kind of defiance.

The dragon talks about heritage and history embodied in the anthem.  But if one knows the third stanza of the anthem, the one the dragon doesn’t teach you to sing, you find it celebrating the death of the slave fighting for his freedom.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave,

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.

Do you understand what you mean by heritage, the poet mutters.  Do you understand that your heritage is more than the profanity offered by the dragon, that there is a noble sound that embraces the true meaning of democracy.  Listen to it.