Carroll: Star-Spangled Silliness

The Detroit Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since 1934. The Lions have also been a lousy football team for most of the time since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first administration. This year has been a bit different since the Lions as they found themselves leading their division, the NFC North, after beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-13 in a thrilling Thanksgiving game.

On both traditional and social media the leading topic was not the game itself but rather Aretha Franklin’s dragged-out version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” which lasted well past four minutes. New York Post sports media critic Phil Mushnick was still railing against Franklin in his column this past Sunday.

Aretha Franklin is a proud Detroit native and clearly wanted to give a memorable performance for her hometown football team. She was probably not told by anyone that a lot of people would be holding a tremendous American flag on the field as she performed or that most spectators at sporting events have short attention spans for the national anthem and just want the game to get underway as soon as possible. After watching a replay of her rendition of the Francis Scott Key patriotic theme it’s clear to me that she meant no disrespect and was simply trying to honor America on a beloved national holiday.

The national discussion about Aretha’s anthem performance reminded me of another kerfuffle on the same topic that coincidentally took place in Detroit. In 1968 Jose Feliciano, the talented guitarist and singer whose career was just starting to take off, was selected by Major League Baseball to perform the anthem before Game 5 of the World Series that featured the Cardinals taking on the Tigers.

Feliciano decided to ditch the time-honored melody and replace it with an original arrangement accompanied by his flamenco acoustic guitar playing. The immediate reaction was rather muted as there was both little applause but no noticeable booing either. The reaction from the heartland was strongly unfavorable as radio station programmers, especially in what are now referred to as red states, immediately stopped playing his records. His career was stopped in its tracks.

There is little doubt that history conspired against Jose. The Vietnam War was at its height and the nation was polarized (yes, even worse than it may seem today.) Jose’s performance was completely misunderstood by the folks who President Nixon labeled “The Silent Majority.” Being a young musician in the “long-haired hippie rock & roll” era probably did not help either in trying to win over middle America.

History has been kind to Jose Feliciano. Major League Baseball has placed his  performance that day on YouTube. Nearly everyone, regardless of political viewpoint, now considers it to be a masterpiece. Jose has frequently performed the national anthem at ballparks in recent years. The applause is always deafening as it should be and some of that understandably comes out of a collective guilt.

Patriots QB Tom Brady and his teammates were not at their sharpest Sunday when they played the Jets at MetLife Stadium, but as is generally the case whenever the two teams meet, it really did not matter. Brady and his guys toyed with Gang Green nearly all afternoon before pulling out a fourth quarter 22-17 win.

Brady’s counterpart, Ryan Fitzpatrick, played fairly well but now that the Jets can’t finish above .500 it’s time that Jets head coach Todd Bowles turns the starting reigns over to Bryce Petty assuming that the team has no interest in bringing back Fitzpatrick who is a free agent after this season. There is no reward in the National Football League for winning games that don’t result in a playoff berth except a worse slot in the upcoming college player draft.

The Jets have not had a good kickoff returner since Leon Washington in the late ‘90s. Jeremy Ross is no Leon Washington in that he rarely returns the football to even his own team’s 25 yard-line which is the breakeven mark for returners. If he were to just take a knee in the end zone instead of trying to return the ball the Jets would be better off. If nothing else, they wouldn’t have to worry about holding penalties which frequently occur when Ross tries to run them back.

It’s safe to say that the Jets were humiliated even before they took the field on Sunday. NBC was supposed to show the Pats-Jets game as part of their Sunday Night Football package. NBC Sports and NFL executives decided two weeks ago that the Jets weren’t deserving of primetime and moved them out in favor of the Chiefs-Broncos game. It must have caused a lot of pain to both the league and NBC to give up a game involving both the New York market and national ratings draw Tom Brady.

Hall of Famer and former Mets catcher Mike Piazza is featured in the current edition of Cigar Aficionado. In the article Piazza talks about being the owner of a professional Italian soccer tram, AC Regiana 1919,and his love of Montecristo, Partagas Lusitania, and the Davidoff “R” line of cigars. Mike learned about cigars while playing baseball at Miami Dade Community College.

It’s hard to believe that Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis was booed lustily by many fans who attended the 2015 NBA Draft that was held at Barclays Center. Porzingis has more than delivered for the team this year with both his scoring and defense. He’s also working hard to become part of the New York area framework. Porzingis will be contributing $500 for every blocked shot that he makes on defense for the Ben Jobe Educational and Scholarship Fund which helps provide tutoring services for underprivileged young people.

The University of Southern California Trojans were to college football in the 1960s and early ‘70s what the New England Patriots are the NFL today. Sportswriter Steve Delsohn has written an overview of the last 40 years of USC gridiron action with his new book, Cardinal And Gold (Crown Archetype), which is an oral history of the Trojans. Delsohn culls a lot of quotes out of former head coach John Robinson and troubled QB Todd Marinovich.

“Hands of Stone,” a dramatization of the life of Panamanian middleweight boxer, Roberto Duran,” that starred Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez in the title role and Robert De Niro as his trainer Ray Arcel, was released in movie theaters in late August and it proved to be a box office bomb. I saw the film on DVD this past weekend and was very pleasantly surprised. The film not only looks at Duran’s career in the ring but also what was going in his country in the late 1970s including the now forgotten brouhaha about whether the US should turn over control of the Panama Canal to Panama. Ironically, two musicians turned actors, Usher and Ruben Blades, are superb as Sugar Ray Leonard and boxing promoter Carlos Eleta respectively.

Surprisingly, Delsohn chose to begin his tome after USC’s glory days when the school was routinely the best in the nation. My guess is that he did not want to get sucked in to writing about O.J. Simpson.

Exercise and eating fruits and vegetables help improve the odds of good health for all but those things are crucial musts for anyone who has been diagnosed with the onset of multiple sclerosis according to Australian neuro-epidemiologist, Dr. George Jelinek, who was diagnosed with the disease back in 1999 at the age of 45.

Dr. Jelinek is still far from disabled 17 years later and has written a book titled Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (Allen & Unwin). Among his surprising findings is his belief that living farther away from the Equator increases the odds for getting multiple sclerosis. He theorizes that the direct rays of the sun help provide some immunology against the disease. Of course the more direct rays increase the odds of skin cancer.

Speaking before of the importance of fruits and vegetables in improving health, specifically one’s immune system against viruses, Juice Press ( has numerous freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable combos in a bottle which taste surprisingly good even though the sugar content is minimal. If you are suffering from a cold or laryngitis their fireball and volcano line of juices, which aren’t for the faint of heart, will help clear things out in a hurry. It should be noted however that Juice Press products are never pasteurized in order to maintain maximum potency so you should drink them in a hurry as opposed to leaving them in your fridge the way that you would for most juices.

Cable’s FXX is now airing all 600 episodes of “The Simpsons.” The marathon, which FXX is calling the longest showing of a single program in TV history, began on Thanksgiving and will end on Tuesday, December 6.

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