A hundred years ago, it was quite uncommon for a man to give a woman a diamond engagement ring. Couples exchanged gold bands on their wedding day, but an engagement ring? That was mostly just for the rich who liked to show off.
In a 1982 Atlantic article, the reporter stated that De Beers Consolidated Mines saw diamond sales slow during the Great Depression, so in 1938 the company hired an advertising agency to burn the image of diamonds into the American psyche.
And it worked.
Movie stars were given big diamonds to gift to their loved ones so that the media would see the big rocks and take photos. The ad agency would give the size of the diamonds to the photographers so they could put the carat details in the caption.
The idea was to relate diamonds with love, and maybe more importantly that the amount of love coincided with the size of the rock.
These days, if a young man were to ask a woman to marry without presenting a diamond ring, most parents would be offended. “You’re not marrying my daughter, you cheapskate.”
Ask someone why a diamond ring is important, and they’ll say, “It’s tradition.”
Umm, no it’s not. This idea has only been around since about the start of World War II. While in High Point, I once met a furniture maker from Ireland who told me his church back home was more than 400 years old. Now that is tradition.
Keep that thought in mind while I make another point.
A coworker has written three columns in the past four months criticizing NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem.
It’s unpatriotic. It’s an insult to our troops. Other flavorful lines have been thrown around by more folks on social media.
I agree there is a time and place for protests, and the start of a football game doesn’t seem like the best place to me.
Heck, standing is the law. United States flag code Title 36, Chapter 10 states: “During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.”
However, let me go in another direction altogether.
Why are we playing the national anthem at a football game? Don’t answer too quickly. Think about it for a minute.
“We play the anthem to show pride in our country.”
In that case, why is it we only play it at sporting events? Why don’t we start the school day with the anthem? Why don’t commissioners’ meetings start with the song? Why don’t TV news broadcasts begin with it?
Think I’m being silly? According to Wikipedia, Tanzania and other countries start school that way. China plays its anthem before starting the evening news.
Remember when TV stations used to sign off at night with the anthem? Colombia insists its TV and radio stations play the anthem at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day, and Thailand plays its royal anthem at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day.
In some countries, the anthem plays at the movie theater before the feature film starts.
“The anthem is supposed to mean something to people.”
Does it truly mean something to most Americans? Or have we heard it so many times before games that it no longer holds the same significance? Let’s be honest, when the national anthem comes on the TV, do you rise from your sofa and place your hand upon your chest? Or do you crack open a 12-ounce can and reach for your snacks?
“It shows support of our troops.”
Again, I’ll use Wikipedia as a source that says that other countries don’t believe this. The anthem stands for the whole country, not just the military. And truthfully, it seemed to be that way here until 9/11.
An anthem applies to the neighbor you don’t like, that politician you didn’t vote for, the crazy cat lady down the street. It’s not just for those of us to who signed up for military service.
If you wanted to honor soldiers, the official song of the U.S. Army is “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” Or you could play “Anchors Aweigh” for the Navy. Those are songs directly tied to the military.
See? We come full circle to the diamond issue that started around the time of World War II. Well, so did playing the anthem at U.S. sporting events.
Starting in 1942, many professional baseball players were drafted into service, including future Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who was coming off his career year. Wanting to do something to honor their absent players, major league teams began to play the national anthem as a show of support.
In 1945, the war ended in the middle of the season, so teams decided to keep playing the anthem through the end of the year. Then by that point, folks had gotten used to having it around, so the stadiums kept it going.
Later on other sports leagues took up the idea.
According to some military websites I’ve visited, the U.S. Navy approved “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem way back in 1899. The public began to support the idea, too, but it would be another 43 years before anyone tried playing it around a sports league. And even then it was part of a nationwide push to boost morale during a time of war and poverty.
So obviously, this isn’t a long historical trend.
As for the NFL, for many TV broadcasts over decades of seasons, the anthem often wasn’t even televised – until the protests made an issue of it. The talking heads in the studio and in the booth at the stadium would be blabbing away, and then there would be the quick pan across several players standing at attention before the next commercial break.
Then suddenly people said they aren’t going to watch the games anymore because of what was happening during the anthem? They didn’t watch the song in the first place.
That’s like complaining about traffic in a city you don’t visit.
Football is just a game. It’s not a political arena so cut out the protests, and it’s not an excuse to push patriotism on viewers, so drop the song.
The general public can’t sing it well anyway.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.