HOBART — The United States is in a cold, uncivil war of words as political factions are full of so much angst and hatred toward the other side, basic human interaction can seem almost unattainable.

If it isn't fixed we are in trouble.

As Hobart football coach Ryan Turley watched the Bears vs. Steelers game Sunday, the protesting during the national anthem bothered him immensely. It made him sad.

Turley talked with his administrators, and on Thursday night one of Hobart's leading history and civics teachers spoke to the Brickies at the 50-yard line after practice.

The teacher did not want his name or photo taken for the media. He was afraid of any potential backlash from people who might disagree with his presentation to the teenagers. Have we really gotten to such a place?

"We didn't want to tell kids what to believe," Turley said, "but we wanted to make this a teaching moment. This is an important issue."

The history and meaning of the national anthem and flag was explained to the Brickies. What these national symbols expressed was explained, too.

Hobart senior quarterback Sam Ehrlich's father served in the U.S. Army and his brother, Jacob, served in the National Guard.

He said he was shocked by the protests around the NFL this past weekend that came after President Donald Trump called players who kneel during the national anthem derogatory names and called for NFL owners to fire them.

"We learned that the message and the delivery are two different things," Ehrlich said. "I saw what (NFL protestors) are trying to do. I don't think either side is right or wrong. They both have their points.

"But our flag, our anthem, are symbols of unity. Maybe they could make their point better by not offending the other side."

Ehrlich spoke about how important these symbols are to everybody. He brought up the horrors of the 9/11 attacks with the death, the bloodshed and the horror.

"The next day there was one image that brought us all together," he said. "The flag hanging there amongst the wreckage meant a lot to everyone. It is there to unify all of us."

Omena Onomakpome is a senior wide receiver and linebacker for the Brickies. His father is from Nigeria and his mother is from Puerto Rico.

"It's crazy how our national anthem can break apart a nation," Onomakpome said. "I never thought such a thing could happen. It's hard. If one side takes action, the other side reacts. It gets ugly. We all have to listen to each other and work together to make our country great for everybody."

Most of this season Hobart has remained inside the locker room when the national anthem was played because of all that has to be done to get ready for kickoff. Turley said he is going to do everything in his power to have his players on the field for this ritual that does matter.

"We had a history lesson on the 50-yard line with the American flag behind us," Turley said. "I thought it was great. Again, we're not telling anyone what to believe, but we want them to have informed decisions and we want them to make their points in a way that doesn't anger so many people.

"The message and the delivery are two different things."

Onomakpome and Ehrlich are two young men with sharp minds and great hearts, who were listening when the teacher was telling why these things matter.

"What did Abraham Lincoln say?" Ehrlich said. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Onomakpome also shared his soul with his thoughts on the subject.

"When I hear the anthem, for those two minutes, it gets me excited and ready to play some football," Onomakpome said. "But most importantly, when I hear that song it makes me proud to be an American."

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.


Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.