Jeff Pearlman

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Lee Greenwood (doesn’t blow)

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Greenwood on the sax. Who knew?

So yesterday evening I planned a surprise outing for the wife. We were leaving the kids home and going somewhere interesting.

“Where?” the wife asked.

I refused to say.

We drove about 20 minutes north to the Orange County Fairgrounds, home to the small-yet-splendid Pacific Amphitheatre. I had offered some hints en route—the camouflage hate atop my head, the suggestion that there’d be a fair #MAGA turnout, the sly grin.

She guessed a few times.

“Darius Rucker?” the wife said.

“No,” I said, laughing. “There will be, I’m guessing, no blacks attending this.”


“Way off.”

Finally, as we pulled into the lot the wife saw a man wearing a black T-shirt featuring a bald eagle and the words, BLESS THE USA

“Are we seeing Lee Greenwood?” she said.

“Yes,” I replied. “Yes we are.”

The wife isn’t a big Lee Greenwood fan, and she’s as liberal as I am. But she’s also an absolute sucker for Greenwood’s one song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when I saw he was coming to our turf, I plunked down the $20 or so per ticket.

To be honest, I expected a carnival of Trump hats, of Obama bashing, of hate-hate-hate. I expected to giggle beneath my breath as idiot #MAGA bots roamed the building waving flags and barking about taking back America.





The event actually featured the Pacific Symphony performing patriots songs to honor veterans and active-duty soldiers. And it was fucking awesome. The Ampitheatre was about, oh, 80 percent filled, and I’d say half of those people were affiliated with the military. There was almost no sign of Trump loyalty (or disloyalty)—just people who had fought for what they believe, standing to salute the flag, crying as the symphony (along with a choir) played a slow, stirring hymm as two large screens projected images of myriad military cemeteries.

Greenwood emerged 3/4 of the way through the night—77-years-old, a bit shrunken, but engaged, entertaining, enlightening. He mentioned politics not once, and (via reading later that night) learned he actually has little interest in the politicizing of his music. Yes, he voted Trump and clearly leans conservative. But he also told Rolling Stone he would have proudly played Obama’s inauguration had he been asked; that he loved our nation more than any party.

When he belted out, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” all the attendees stood, sang, applauded. A few rows in front of us, a man in his 90s beamed beneath a hat marking his service in both the army and marines. One person after another stopped to thank him, and he—without fail—replied with, “Thank you for thanking me.”

It felt like the America I still love.

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  • Paul C

    In LA, they play the video of that song at every mass Naturalization ceremony. And yes, it is schmaltzy, but the new citizens love it.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life