It’s time. Actually, it’s been well past time for years now.
Time for what? Time to end the performances of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretches of playoff—and most other—ballgames. It’s time to reinstate “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as the go-to song during this intermission.
Why? Because, to be blunt, more than enough time has passed since the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that led to the singing of “God Bless America” at ballgames in the first place.
Now, I realize there are many people—particularly in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania—for whom not enough time ever will pass. The memories of one of the worst days in United States history will remain with them forever, and for them I have nothing but sympathy.
Similar memories remain with all of us to varying degrees. Like everyone alive in the 1960s knows where they were when they heard John F. Kennedy was shot, everyone knows where they were when they heard about the World Trade Center attacks.
And as with FDR’s “Green Light” letter to Commissioner Landis early in 1942, the return of baseball in the late fall of 2001 provided a bit of normalcy during a difficult time, a statement that Americans’ lives would not long be put on hold because of the deplorable act of a group of terrorists, and “God Bless America” played a notable role in the demonstration of our nation’s resolve.
However, continuing to focus on the tragedy of that day during every postseason ballgame (as well as Opening Day and the All-Star Game) has gone from a respectful memorial occasion to a morbid, pandering one. By emphasizing Major League Baseball’s strong sense of patriotism principally when the most eyes are on the game, the league is forcing a solemn respectfulness that actually comes across as borderline disingenuous.
We all know what baseball means to this country; we don’t need it shone into our eyes during every game throughout October.
It would be more significant if we further proved America’s resilience by going back to the way things were, if we showed everyone the world over that we put our games in the proper perspective by celebrating the distractions they are. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” does that quite well.
The song’s lyrics describe a trip to the park with thousands of like-minded acquaintances, enjoying a snack, wanting to stay there as long as possible, and reveling in the bliss of a home-team victory. What more could any baseball fan hope for on a lovely summer day? A ballgame is supposed to be a light-hearted, joyful, fun experience, not a solemn appeal for divine guidance.
It does seem reasonable to use “God Bless America” (or “America The Beautiful”) on holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.—and, of course, on Sept. 11. And if the stadiums in New York and D.C. play it with greater regularity, that’s understandable, too. The song’s connotations in those areas are different, more intense. (But if the Yankees, Mets and Nationals reduced its usage to the same degree as other teams, it would not be inappropriate.)
Overall as a nation, we need to move forward, never forgetting, but not dwelling with overmuch melancholy on the tragedy of that awful autumn day.
In a few short weeks, pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training. Baseballs will be popping into mitts, the crack of the bat will once again be heard, and the roar of the crowds soon will follow. It will be time to head back out to the ball game, root for our favorite team, and sing a little ditty about how much fun we’re having doing so.
If you bring the peanuts, I’ll bring the Cracker Jack.