Last Saturday morning, I started my usual routine: Wake up, make breakfast for my daughters, and do some major yard work. There was nothing different about my morning until my neighbor Al came outside.
“Hey, Gil. It’s a super hot morning today,” he said.
I acknowledged him, drenched in sweat, after about two hours into me mowing the lawn, trimming, and edging my property saying to myself, “Ya think?” But in mowing my yard I had noticed the strip of grass between our two homes was much lower than the rest of my yard.
Then Al said, “You don’t mind that I mow the grass in between our houses do you? I figured since I’m already there mowing my section I might as well do yours as well.”
I had already suspected he did it. It was cut shorter than I usually cut my yard. But since it was one less section I had to worry about — and a section you can’t really notice — I practically told him to continue doing what he’s doing, and thanked him for doing so.
Al is a very nice person. He moved down to Tampa from Philadelphia a few years back. He’s a military veteran that proudly hangs an American flag in his screened in pool enclosure. We’ve never talked about his time overseas fighting for our freedom in detail, but we have talked football and how he is probably the only Philadelphia transplant that ditched his Eagles fandom for the Buccaneers. He always brings up how much he likes the team’s colors and how the young nucleus of players can potentially become “a force” for years to come. He also talks about how much he enjoys games at Raymond James Stadium much more than when he attended Eagles games at Lincoln Financial Field.
Last Saturday was no different.
We began talking about the 2018 season after he asked me, “So what do you think about Jameis Winston’s suspension? I feel it’s kind of bogus. If he really did something terrible, a deal would not have been made.”
I proceeded to talk about what I have written on BucsNation.com. He didn’t know I managed the site, so the conversation now got deeper.
“Think about it. If he truly groped the driver, the NFL would not have let Winston off that easily,” Al said. “I don’t see the point to that. But they should totally sign Colin Kapernick for those three games they won’t have Winston.”
I now became curious. I never would have imagined a man who served and proudly displays his patriotism would support a person who kneels during the National Anthem.
So I asked him why he thought they should.
“They are acting like he is not better and more explosive than [Ryan Fitzpatrick] and more than half of the other backups in the league,” said Al. “[The NFL] is making deals with someone who allegedly did something inappropriately in a supposed sexual way but you can’t allow someone to sign with a team just because he kneels for an issue he is passionate about?”
“You don’t think he is disrespecting the flag,” I asked.
“No. People think he is but he is kneeling after a soldier told him to kneel in a display of respect to a cause he is trying to fight for. This whole situation has been overblown.”
I was taken back a bit. I have usually seen the politically correct folks on social media, where everyone usually sides with the hottest takes and social movements just because it’s going viral. Al’s opinion on the Kaepernick situation was much different, and one I now obviously value much more.
But we all know that the Buccaneers — nor any other team for that matter — will bring in the veteran quarterback despite previously helping San Francisco reach a Super Bowl. And while Al is correct that he is much better than at least half of backups out there, we all know Kaepernick may never step foot on an NFL field again.
As for the Buccaneers, they will be fine with Fitzpatrick leading the charge for three games. They just need him to play smart football and manage the game. Hopefully an upgraded running game and an improved defensive front will help them get through that tough stretch of three games.
But if not, we may be left wondering what if Kaepernick could have truly made a difference.