(Editor's note: In case you are wondering why there is a picture of Marvin Gaye at the top of a column about football and related topics, the editorial board of We Want Marangi firmly believes this whole Star Spangled Banner mess could be alleviated by simply replacing all live performances before sporting events with video of Marvin absolutely killing it before the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. Everyone would be too busy grooving, or trying not to, to argue. Watch for yourself.)
I walked into a gin mill out in the country shortly before the Buffalo Bills kicked off the 2016 season against the Baltimore Ravens.
It was a different world then.
You could still still hope that Rex Ryan could direct the Bills to victory as often as he won press conferences.
O.J. Simpson was still in prison.
And the thought of a reality-television star with a proven disinterest in serving his country, as well as a well-documented history of saying and doing things that suggested a less-than-enlightened view of race relations and a highly creepy view of roughly half the American citizenry seemed like little more than a brand-building goof. Even to the reality-television star himself.
A couple weeks earlier, a backup quarterback for San Francisco, previously best known for leading the 49ers to a surprising Super Bowl run following the 2013 season, sat during the National Anthem before an exhibition game. Colin Kaepernick made the motivation for his demonstration pretty clear at the time.
Neither major-party candidate for president made an issue of Kaepernick's protest. After all, this is America, the land of the free, right?
Of course, this also being America, the home of the easily outraged, there were those who were pissed off about Kaepernick's stance -- or, more accurately, lack thereof.
So, with the real season starting, I wanted to hear what fans had to say. And what they did.
There were about a half-dozen locals sitting at the bar, all but one wearing baseball caps. Let's just say more than one noted Kaepernick's race during the discussion. As the barmaid served me, the television issued the traditional directive to "Please rise for the playing of our National Anthem."
I was already standing, as I prefer to do in such settings. I took off my baseball cap and set it on the bar.
No one else in the joint stood, or doffed.
Which wasn't a big deal. Hypocrisy is also a very American tradition. The Bills set about boring everyone watching into submission, grinding out a 13-7 defeat by the Ravens.
We all know how things went from there.
Ryan never did get it right, or even last the entire season, getting canned with a week left in the season, after failing to make sure his defense had enough players on the field for what turned out to be the decisive play in an overtime loss to Miami.
As of this morning, The Juice is loose.
And the reality-television star is the President of the United States.
Having spent the majority of my adult life making something approximating a living writing about both sports and politics, among other things, I really, really like to keep the two separate whenever possible.
The president's demand for compulsory Anthem-standing (made immediately after calling for more brain damage in the National Football League, it has to be noted) detonated that particular wall, though.
I am not kick-starting this little bit of vanity journalism in order to engage in the same kind of pointless arguments you can find in just about any corner of the internet (plus, that's why we have Twitter). I believe what I believe, you what you believe, and there is an infinitely minuscule chance we are going to change each other's mind.
Whatever you believe, though, it would be a good idea to read what Gen. Michael Hayden, who served in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, had to say about the whole mess.
Gen. Hayden's op-ed, published by The Hill, has not gotten nearly as much attention as you would have expected in more normal times. Probably because he looks at both sides of the issue and takes all perspectives into account, neither of which draws many clicks on either side of any topic these days.
The 39-year veteran of the United States Air Force did not like Kaepernick's protest when it began, but argues that the president's effort to suppress it poses a much greater, and much more un-American, danger:
As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight. It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner. I never imagined myself saying this before Friday, but if now forced to choose in this dispute, put me down with Kaepernick.(In case you missed the link to Gen. Hayden's op-ed above, here it is again. Do yourself a favor and give it a click.)
In another under-reported matter, this blog's patron saint was mentioned in a national forum. As usual, it unfairly centered on the unfortunate statistics Gary Marangi compiled in his half-season as Buffalo's starting quarterback.
The always-excellent -- and incredibly thorough -- Bill Barnwell mentioned our namesake while looking at quarterbacks under the age of 30 who threw more than 200 passes in a season, then never played in another regular-season game.
Consider that Marangi went 0-7 as a starter and set a still-standing league record for lowest career completion percentage. The Packers still tried to trade for him, only to be rebuffed when Marangi failed a physical. The Browns signed Marangi anyway.
(Editor's note: As always, readers are strongly encouraged to follow @DavidStaba on the Twitter for semi-informed commentary and random cheap shots, mostly related to football.)