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Watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night left me an emotional wreck. And, no, it had nothing to do with the lights-out, down-to-the-wire, officials-blown finish, however dramatic you might have considered that to be.
I didn’t care who won between Edgar Allen Poe’s team and John Wilson Marshall’s team.
I also didn’t care which Harbaugh won, although I understood how each felt. My younger brothers have been trying for decades – and too often succeeding – to beat me at, oh, baseball, basketball, football, golf, tennis, drag racing, skeet, checkers, dominoes, the Andy Griffith Board Game – you name it. Sibling rivalry and family pride I get in spades.
But, no, none of that rendered me to teary eyes, clogged throats and a roller-coaster ride of pride and perspective.
Those arrived before the first player ever was introduced, when the choir from Sandy Hook Elementary stepped on the field and sang “America The Beautiful.”
Wow, the chills wash over me just typing and rereading those timid and inadequate words. Here were children who had lived through an unimaginable, life-changing experience lifting up their voices to inspire a nation – hopefully – to rise in respect for all they had endured.
Less than two months after their schoolmates, principal and others had died almost in front of them, they had the poise – not to mention the talent – to entertain on America’s biggest stage. That they were joined by Jennifer Hudson in their performance created overwhelming symmetry. It was Hudson, you may recall, who stepped away from her career after her mother, brother and nephew were gunned down in Chicago.
This performance, though, wasn’t pathos but poignancy and healing. For those several minutes, American did in fact feel beautiful.
Similar feelings emerged an hour or so later when, from among the mindless drivel of overly creative and sometimes hard-to-grasp series of multimillion-dollar commercials, there rose the dulcet and imperial tones of Oprah Winfrey as she told the story of the American service person, who had served, fought, won, died, endured and, hopefully, returned home to families and loved ones.
The images and her narration – in the name of Jeep, we should add – jerked to our throats heart-bursting pride and not-so-silent prayers for those who had endured and returned to the arms of loved ones.
Whether it was your dad in WWII or Korea, your cousin in Vietnam, you friend’s daughter in Iraq or your own son in Afghanistan, surely you could connect with the message of ultimate sacrifice and commitment and the prayers and anguish experienced and endured until each of those would return to the hero’s welcome they deserved.
And after those command-your-focus moments, there came midway through the blackout-delayed second half the resonant voice of the late Paul Harvey. Maybe you saw this – many of you certainly have commented on social media – and even wondered how it all came to be.
Harvey’s perfect timbre and pace created the ultimate, poetic soundtrack for a video homage to the American farmer.
This was a commercial for Dodge trucks, and like its cousin from Jeep, it was the perfect balance of captivating for the viewer and subtle in its endorsement of the product. This one stole the show, as it were.
You don’t have to have grown up among cornstalks and tobacco leaves, walking hayfields and chasing cows through mud to have appreciated Harvey’s words. You don’t have to have had helped a newborn foal to its feet or pulled a calf from its mother.
You didn’t have to plow ground in the spring, pitch hay in the summer or stamp down silage in the fall to understand.
You didn’t have to find a wayward heifer or chase off a runaway bull. You didn’t have to hoe away the weeds or rip the flowered tops from burley. You didn’t have to shovel corn or mix grains or sweat in a hayloft or freeze in a milking parlor.
Chances are even if you’ve never done any of those things and you grew up in Shelby County, you weren’t a generation removed from someone who did.
I’m told Harvey’s words came from a speech he gave decades ago to the national meeting of Future Farmers of America. And even as I reflected on them, I wondered if they had gone far enough. The hundreds in Shelby County from among my generation who wore the blue jackets and embraced agriculture certainly were everything Harvey described and more.
Ask Maury Cox, Larry Gravett, Paul Hornback, Bill Miles, Perry Joe Nutt, B.J. Nethery or so many others who did, as Harvey suggested, and followed their families’ legacies by providing from the land.
The word farmer no longer is sufficiently broad to describe what they do each day. They are accountants, doctors, lawyers, environmentalists, nutritionists and economists in the strictest terms. They are botanists, agronomists, geneticists, zoologists, lawyers and politicians.
Above all, the American farmer, as Harvey described, is a person of pride.
I must admit that I never wanted to follow the family tradition into the fields. I learned early that I didn’t like the work, the hours or the pay – and almost every farmer today would agree with that.
But there I live, on my few acres, on a rolling hill, with fences and animals and hay to be tossed.
I wouldn’t call myself a farmer, but I sure respect anyone who does.
And I sit much more in awe of them than I do any Raven or a 49er.