Every seventh inning at Yankee Stadium since September 18, 2001, Kate Smith (or Ronan Tynan) belts out “God Bless America.” Before the performance (or recording), Bob Sheppard urges us to “remember the servicemen and women who have lost their lives defending our freedom and our way of life.”
For a while after Sept. 11, all Major League Baseball teams were observing a moment of silence and playing this song. But now, five and a half years after the attacks, the moment of silence seems to have dwindled down to a half-second of silence, and “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium – the only stadium at which it is performed on a daily basis – is raising more than a few eyebrows, as The New York Times noted yesterday. The Yankee Stadium ushers, it seems, chain in the fans and glare at folks who dare to move during the song.
Seconds before â€œThe Star-Spangled Bannerâ€ and â€œGod Bless Americaâ€ are played, police officers, security guards and ushers turn their backs to the American flag in center field, stare at fans moving through the stands and ask them to stop. Across the stadiumâ€™s lower section, ushers stand every 20 feet to block the main aisle with chains…
Howard J. Rubenstein, the spokesman for the Yankeesâ€™ principal owner, George Steinbrenner, said the policy was an expression of patriotism. â€œMr. Steinbrenner wanted to do all games to remind the fans about how important it is to honor our nation, our service members, those that died on Sept. 11 and those fighting for our nation,â€ Rubenstein said in a telephone interview.
Among the sports world on the Internet, Will Leitch at Deadspin covered this story. He noted how bad the song is, how Irving Berlin himself grew to hate it, and how enforced patriotism on behalf of the Yankees is just tacky. Over at Fark, that site of high-brow Internet culture, the Farkers had a field day with it as well.
But none of the Yankee bloggers have tackled this issue. Why? Because we hate to mix baseball and politics. We all get along because we all love the Yankees. We don’t want to know if we agree with George W. Bush’s foreign
disaster policy. We don’t want to see the Yankee blogosphere devolve into a blue state-red state battle. It’s bad enough we have to deal with Red Sox trolls; we’re not going to get embroiled in the Michelle Malkin-Daily Kos wars as well.
I, however, want to break that silence. In my opinion – and in this piece I speak for me and me alone – it’s time for the Yanks to give Kate Smith and Ronan Tynan a break. We know the Yankees, and every other baseball club, are patriotic. We know the Yankees played a major role in lifting New York’s spirits in the fall of 2001 (even if those nasty Diamondbacks decided to rain on our parade).
But we also know that we are involved in a war in Iraq that shouldn’t have been part of the War on Terror. We also know that President Bush has very little support in the New York area and is suffering through a time in his presidency during which 28 percent of the nation approves of his handling of the job.
We all want to see our troops fighting overseas return home safely, and none of us want another terrorist attack on our soil. But do we really need “God Bless America” at every baseball game? Someone tell the Yankees: This is baseball. Leave the patriotism for some other time.
Update: A few astute commenters have noted that my argument falls back too much on politics and not enough on what the Yankees are doing. My point in mentioning Bush’s approval rating is to say that many people are uncomfortable with the way in which the Yankees promote George Steinbrenner’s ideas of patriotism. While many others agree with it, why not just leave it out all together and let each of us acknowledge our support for America on our own terms?