Is forced patriotism really patriotic? And is a baseball field the right place to exercise it?
In yesterday’s New York Times, sportswriter Michael S. Schmidt penned an article regarding a post 9-11 ritual conducted during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium. For those of you who don’t know (or aren’t registered to access the site), ever since baseball resumed in New York after 9-11, the New York Yankees have made it a point during every game to ask all in attendance to stand for the playing of “God Bless America”. The Schmidt article above raises an interesting topic of whether or not the Yankees ought to be pressuring the crowd to comply. Not only are the Yankees the only team in MLB to play “God Bless America” during every home game (the other teams only do so on Sundays and holidays), the stadium takes extra measures to limit crowd movements during this time. The ushers rope off the aisles so no one may enter or leave, and even have uniformed police officers ask fans to stop talking (eight other teams have these restrictions as well).
I find this all incredibly interesting. A baseball game in itself has its own rituals. The recitation of the game’s starting lineups is the equivalent of scripture readings. “Let’s Go Yankees” is the Bronx’s “Amen”. The Seventh-Inning Stretch? Sign of Peace (you know, when people do that really awkward shaking of the hands bit. Or is this merely a Catholic tradition? I forget). The T-Shirt Launch is our Eucharist (am I going to hell for this?). Finally, “New York, New York” is the concluding procession. It’s repeated time and time again until we know exactly what needs to be done at any given time.
But even a church service does not restrict movement to this extent. You may be shunned by the other parishioners for leaving a service prematurely, but you certainly are not roped into the pews. Moreover, many churchgoers are there to willingly worship god. I know of no one who attends a baseball game because they want to worship America.
This post is not about moral outrage. I do not think that the Yankees are breaking laws, nor do I find this practice abhorrent. But is it really a patriotic thing to do? If there is a connection between love of America and love of liberty, then restricting movements seems like a very odd way of expressing patriotism.
“The only church that feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.”- Annie Savoy