Both teams were on the field. The crowd stood for the singing of the National Anthem.
Everybody except one man. He just sat and studied his program. The band began playing.
The singing was led by a TV star who had been up all night drinking gin. Ten jets swooped
over the stadium. Fifty majorettes thrust out their chests. The one man stayed in his seat
and looked at his program. Somebody gave him a nudge. He ignored it.
"Stand up," somebody else hissed.
"I'll stand for the kickoff," the man said.
Another man glared at him. "Why don't you stand and sing?"
"I don't believe in it," he said.
The other man gasped. "You don't believe in the National Anthem?"
"I don't believe in singing it at commercial events. I wouldn't sing it in a nightclub, or
in a gambling casino, and I won't sing it at a football game."
A man behind him said: "What are you, a damn radical?"
He shook his head. "I'm not a stadium patriot."
"I'll make you stand up," a husky man said, seizing his fleece collar.
They scuffled and struck each other with their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask.
"What's wrong?" people shouted from a few rows away.
"A radical insulted the anthem," someone yelled.
"I did not," the man yelled. "I won't be a stadium patriot."
"He says he's not a patriot," somebody else roared, swinging a punch.
A policeman pushed through. "What's going on here? Break it up."
People yelled: "He insulted the flag . . . He refused to stand. . . . He's a radical . . . Sit
down---I can't see the girls . . ."
The policeman said: "Why wouldn't you stand?"
"Not at a football game," the man said.
"Hear that?" someone yelled, shaking a fist.
"Let's go fella," the policeman said, leading him away.
He was fined $25 for disorderly conduct, and the judge lectured him on his duties as a citizen.
The next week he had a seat at the Stupendous Bowl game. Both teams took the field and the
crowd rose for the National Anthem. They were led in song by a country music star, who had been
up all night playing dice. A dozen jet bombers flew over. Sixty majorettes thrust out their chests.
This time the man rose with everyone else, and he sang. He sang as loud as he could, in an ear-splitting
voice that could be heard twenty rows in any direction. A few people turned and looked at him as if
he were odd. When the song reached the "land of the free" his voice cracked, but he shrieked out the
high note. Then it was over, everyone applauded, yelled "Kill 'em," and "Murder 'em," and "Belt 'em,"
and sat down to await the opening kickoff. Everyone but the one man. He remained on his feet and
began slowly singing the second stanza in his loud voice. People stared at him. But then they jumped
up and cheered as the ball was kicked off and run back. When they sat down, the man was still standing,
singing. He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and started the third stanza.
"Hey, that's enough," someone yelled.
"Yeah, sit down. I can't see through you," said somebody else.
He kept on singing. People called out:
"Knock it off."
"What's wrong with him?"
"I can't see."
The game was under way. Three plays were run while he sang the third verse. Everyone jumped
up for the punt return. When they sat down, the man was still singing. Everyone around him was becoming
upset. People stood and shook their fists. Somebody threw a hot-dog wrapper. An usher asked him to take
his seat. He shook his head and began the fourth stanza as a touchdown was scored. The people behind him
were outraged. "I couldn't see that because of you . . . Make him sit down . . . He must be crazy . . . He's a
radical . . ." He went on singing. Somebody grabbed his shoulders and tried to push him into his seat. They
scuffled and swung their programs. Somebody dropped a hip flask. The man struggled to his feet, still
howling the fourth stanza.
A policeman pushed through. "What's going on? Break it up."
"He won't sit down," someone yelled. "He won't stop singing," someone else said. "He's trying to start a riot. He's a radical."
"Let's go fella," the policeman said, leading him away as he finished the final stanza, holding the note as long as he could.
The judge fined him $25 for disorderly conduct, and warned him about not shouting fire in a crowded theater.
The next week he went to the Amazing Bowl. The crowd was led in singing the National Anthem by
a rock star, who had been up all night with three groupies. A squadron of dive bombers flew between the
goal posts. He stood with with everyone else. As the music was played, he moved his lips because he was
chewing peanuts, and he stared at the chest of a majorette. Then he sat down with everyone else.
The man in the next seat offered him a sip from his hip flask.
3 January 1972
Slats Grobnik And Some Other Friends"