SIOUX CITY -- Oprah Winfrey, scarcely in need of a paycheck with a net worth of $3-billion, debuted Sunday evening as a special correspondent for the 50th season debut of “Sixty Minutes,’’ the marvelous CBS-TV news magazine.
The milestone episode aired on the 49th anniversary of the program’s Sept. 24, 1968 premier in which the opening lines were presented by the personable Harry Reasoner, a Dakota City, Iowa, native who is buried in neighboring Humboldt.
For her initial contribution, at any rate, Winfrey delivered a segment that was unsurprisingly consistent with the quality endeavors for which she is typically renowned.
Moderating a panel of 14 Michigan voters split 7-7 on their sentiments toward President Donald Trump, Oprah gave us a compelling overview of a troubling divide we’ve seldom seen in our great nation.
Unlike anything else I’ve seen on this very hot-button topic, though, she guided these two widely separated factions back to a sense of the common humanity that still exists as much as ever within most people on either side. Even if it boils down to an agreement to disagree, it’s time to start liking one another again, regardless of viewpoints.
Most of this is misplaced on this page, but it actually became fair game for sports columnists when Trump and a large number of professional athletes, most of them from the NFL, went to the mat over pre-game national anthem protocol.
My first thought: This is yet another boiling pot that seems better left unstirred. Nonetheless, wherever you stand on this topic -- or, yes, even kneel -- everyone who ever served in our U.S. armed forces committed to fight for your freedom to speak and think whatever you choose.
Like Oprah’s political roundtable, I’d like to think we can accept whatever behavior or policies result from this latest salvo in a philosophical dispute free-thinking societies are destined to spawn.
Disrespect for our flag has always been seen by the vast majority as something just a bit beyond an acceptable norm where freedom of expression is concerned.
This same unwritten mandate eventually extended to “The Star Spangled Banner,’’ the song that didn’t officially become our national anthem until a 1931 congressional resolution approved by Herbert Hoover, Iowa’s only native-born president.
Crazy thing: The music for this song was written by John Stafford Smith somewhere around 1773. It was over 40 years later when the melody was married to lyrics by Francis Scott Key, an attorney and amateur poet who watched British ships bombard Fort McHenry in Baltimore on the night of Sept. 13-14, 1814. When the smoke cleared on this War of 1812 battle, Key then marveled at dawn to see an American flag still waving in the breeze.
Our anthem actually makes use of only the first of four verses from the original poem. And, this former music major still draws considerable ribbing from Ed Nottle for scribbling these eight lines on the index card I took to home plate at Lewis and Clark Park on June 24, 1993.
That was when “Singin’ Ed,” the Sioux City Explorers’ first field manager, kindly allowed me to do the honors at the team’s very first home game. Squeezing my little “crutch,’’ as Ed perceived it, I’m reasonably certain I never once glanced at those words as I completed my assignment.
What I do recall, though, is taking a right turn and heading toward the home dugout. It was there I proudly accepted a firm handshake from Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon and an historic “explorer” whose presence for the X’s first game here was certainly a highlight.
Singing has been a lifelong passion of mine, but that was my only public rendition of the anthem and I get a little kick (even if no one else does) out of maintaining “I only sing it at new ballparks.’’
And, hilarious as I fully realize this isn’t, two more anthem-related reflections have bugged me for many years.
First, I’ve cringed over soloists who’ve muffed the actual words to the song (I still recommend an index card). Most notably, I refer to those who think “perilous night” is what’s to be sung where the words “perilous fight” belong. And then there’s the tendency to begin the final line with “for the land of the free,’’ when the author is celebrating the flag flying “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Worse yet, dinosaurs in my age bracket can still remember when it was considered irreverent if anyone in attendance didn’t sing all of those lyrics, regardless of how far out of key they might happen to stray. Most regrettably, that has become such a long-lost tradition that it now discourages most folks from even mouthing the words.
President Trump didn’t seem to mind it that some NFL players locked arms as they stood for the anthem Sunday. At least these guys weren’t hiding in the lockerroom like all but one of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Mike Tomlin claimed this was the best way to dodge the politics of this thing, but it was really no better or worse.
Far from such wide-spread scrutiny, meanwhile, I’ll revert back to Lewis and Clark Park for a late-season series between the Explorers and the Winnipeg Goldeyes, who repeated last week as the champions in American Association baseball.
In at least the final two evenings of this late-season series, when the addition of the Canadian anthem extended the pre-game rites, I only recall six or eight uniformed Winnipeg representatives standing along the first-base line, on the visitors’ side.