Sports column: Thoughts on why July 4 is so awesome

Published 4:00 am Friday, July 5, 2024

Because of vacations and holidays I’ve been trying this summer to write a handful of columns in advance, or at least come up with some topics to riff on. I had this weekend pegged as an epic ode to American freedom and what it means to me.

I wrote that column a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t as epic as I wanted. It wasn’t even really an ode. More of a disjointed rambling, really. Now the deadline clock is ticking, so you’re going to get a bunch of bullet points about hot dogs, fireworks, and other stuff that makes the Fourth of July so awesome.

• The names of the various pyrotechnics at your local fireworks stand are weird. Most are made in China, so there are odd names or bad translations like “Whistling Flower” or “Sparkling Toad” or “Massive Exploding Fun Bomb” paired with odd graphics depicting various wartime scenes and UFOs.

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We never really know how good or bad something is, or even what it does. They could pack a hydrogen bomb into something labeled as “Giant Crackling Bear” and we’d never know it until half the neighborhood was a smoking crater. Let’s just spend $50 on it and hope we still have all 10 fingers come July 5.

• Speaking of fireworks, one of my favorite tricks was to stagger a half-dozen fuses so they all lit off of each other and went off as a massive grand finale. It was good bang for the buck.

• And one more fireworks thought — make sure you load your mortars correctly. There is nothing more dangerous or terrifying than turning a skybursting shell into a groundbursting death bomb by accidentally loading it upside down in the tube. A lot of bad fireworks accidents happen that way.

• Food is an important part of July 4. Hamburgers, hot dogs, maybe some fried chicken or barbecue. I’ve always been a fan of side dishes, but it’s bizarre how much of a crapshoot those are. No one makes potato salad or cole slaw the exact same way, and it tends to be either really good or really bad. There isn’t much in between. And if it’s the latter you run the risk of insulting someone by not eating it. That’s a level of stress that’s unwelcome on a fun holiday.

Eating potato salad or slaw that’s been sitting out all day is a different kind of stress.

• Freedom itself is pretty awesome. We hold THAT truth to be self-evident.

• Scanning over the TV listings, it seems ESPN has gone with a “backyard games” theme for the holiday. Thursday’s primetime lineup includes cornhole, pickleball and a hot dog eating contest. It’s like they turned the reins over to a YouTuber for the day. Now if you mash up all three of those, you’d have something every bald eagle would shed a tear over.

• Staying with sports, I miss the NASCAR race at Daytona on July 4 weekend. They moved it to later in the season because of constant weather issues — Florida thunderstorms and racing at 185 mph don’t mix well — and the date is currently filled by a Sunday afternoon street race in Chicago. It’s just not the same as Saturday night in Daytona. That always felt really special.

• There’s something magical about the late afternoon and early evening on July 4. When the sun is just starting to dip so there is a golden haze over everything; the food is all laid out on the picnic table; games of Wiffle Ball are going in the yard and kids are splashing around on the slip and slide for the third straight hour; and everyone is waiting for darkness to fall for the fireworks, yet hoping it never comes at all because it’ll be the end of this golden hour.

Between 5 and 8 p.m. on July 4 might just be a few of the best hours of the year. I’m going to try and take some time to drink it in like a tall glass of cold lemonade.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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