Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath: America the beautiful outdoes us for pride

I had tears in my eyes. I felt so proud to be an American. Then I remembered I wasn't.
I had tears in my eyes. I felt so proud to be an American. Then I remembered I wasn't.

We New Zealanders love our country. We feel proud to come from such a happy, safe, beautiful place.

When overseas we can't wait for people to ask where we're from so we can chime "New Zealand".

"I hear it's beautiful" they say.

"Thank you, it is, it really is," we reply, welling with pride. However we Kiwis have nothing on the Americans. They're intensely patriotic and last week I got on the wrong side of it.

A buddy and I went to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Great city, great team, great stadium, amazing occasion. As a tourist you want to see every second of the pageantry.

So after buying two Bud Lights, a Rizzo shirt, a hot-dog and a blue plastic baseball helmet full of nachos I rushed up to my seat.

But halfway up the stairs everyone stopped still for the national anthem.

Cool. I thought, I'll get up to the stands and watch the singing. So I started weaving my way up through the stationary crowd.

This turned out to be a big no-no. A man in his late 60s wearing high-riding chinos and a polo shirt took offence: "Take off your hat, son, and stand still" he chided.

This put me in an extremely difficult position. I didn't want to disrespect their anthem and all the history and sacrifices that come with it but I couldn't take off my cap either.

My hands were full. I had the two Bud Lights, a giant nacho hat and a hot-dog to carry. Also, I don't know the words to The Star-Spangled Banner.

So I pleaded, "I'm a New Zealander."

Hoping for "I hear it's beautiful down there", I instead got a "shush" from another similarly aged and dressed man.

I had no choice but to stand still holding my heavy but very American load. When the singing stopped, another of their group shook his head and asked, "Seriously?"

"Sorry," I said, "but it's not my national anthem. I sing ours. I can sing it in two languages."

He wasn't impressed.

Nearly everywhere I go in the US I'm impressed. The food, the entertainment, the sport. The people are friendly, the service amazing and the traditions inspiring. They do things so well. Chicago is particularly great.

I had tears in my eyes. I felt so proud to be an American. Then I remembered I wasn't.

That ball game at Wrigley Field was the fifth one the Cubs had played there that week and the stadium was packed with 45,000 excited fans. Exhibiting many times the passion of an Eden Park All Blacks crowd. The history, the ceremony, the nachos. I felt lucky to be there. You can see why Americans feel the way they do about their country. They have a lot to love, which is great fodder for their politicians.

The 2016 presidential election is a hotbed of patriotic pleas and missteps. I watched Barack Obama's DNC speech on the plane from LA. Looking down the rows of my Virgin America flight you could tell which side passengers were on by their choice of coverage - Democrats watching CNN and MSNBC, Trump lovers watching Fox.

What a speech it was from Obama.

"I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together - black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young and old; gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love."

Forty-five minutes of emotive words brilliantly delivered by one of the greatest orators and humans ever. I had tears in my eyes. I felt so proud to be an American. Then I remembered I wasn't.

We Kiwis love our country. But not as loudly as Americans love theirs.

So when you're over there I suggest you put down your giant nacho hats, hot-dogs and your Bud Lights, take off your cap, put your hand on your heart and hum The Star-Spangled Banner loud and proud like you know the words. Otherwise you can expect a polite chino-wearing telling off.

- NZ Herald

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Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath is a breakfast radio host on Radio Hauraki, and a television producer, writer and director. He made a name for himself with Back of The Y Masterpiece Television, Balls of Steel UK and the feature film The Devil Dared Me To. Matt was guitarist and singer for the band Deja Voodoo which released two top twenty albums. He is currently a producer on Best Bits, a cricket commentator for The Alternative Commentary Collective, and the director of Vinewood Motion Graphics. Matt is a father of two living in Auckland City.

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