This I Believe

Cecil - Yonkers, New York
Entered on June 20, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Baseball is less interesting, and sometimes exasperating these days, because of its needless man-made and corporate-sanctioned delays–batters strolling out of the box after every pitch; pitchers posing like art-house models; extra time allotted between half-innings for more commercials.

New York Yankee home games take even longer these days because of over-patriotism.

During every seventh-inning stretch since the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01, the Yankees have featured a rendition of “God Bless America.”

Somtimes, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performs the song in person preceded by its seldom-heard opening stanza.

What’s wrong with that?

Well, for one thing, its faux-patriotism. For another, it’s ill-timed.

The Yankees play “God Bless America,” then the traditional “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” after 6-1/2 innings, thus forcing the opposing team’s pitcher to wait longer than usual to resume work.

During such an unnatural delay, a pitcher can get stale and edgy and lose his “stuff.”

The seventh-inning stretch used to be a festive time during which adults and children stood and sang, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The Yankees have turned it into something somber, an extended display of over-patriotism. It smacks of gamesmanship, a ploy in the guise of a tribute to America. It is something the Yankees simply don’t need to do.

If the Yankees truly believe it necessary to have paying customers stand for a moment of silence followed “God Bless America,” then Major League Baseball should make the Yankees do it before the game, so it doesn’t affect the other team’s pitcher adversely.

Performing this ritual before the game would force the Yankee starter to wait longer to pitch his first inning. This could be the reason the Yankees don’t handle it that way.

During the 2003 American League Division Series, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made mention of the Yankees’ inappropriately long seventh-inning stretch and how it affected his pitcher Brad Radke.

Some called Gardenhire’s comments “unpatriotic.” Others said he didn’t understand how much psychic damage was done to New Yorkers on 9-11, and how the seventh-inning ritual was more needed here than elsewhere.

Well, as a native New Yorker, I don’t buy it.

Don’t get me wrong: the attacks upon the World Trade Center that claimed nearly 3,000 lives as well as the attack upon the Pentagon and the downed plane in a western Pennsylvania field that killed hundreds more were despicable and reprehensible acts. No reasonable person who buys a ticket to a Yankee game is ever going to forget what happened in New York on 9-11-01.

But that does not mean we need to have war and terrorism thrust to the forefront of our consciousness after 6-1/2 innings of every game at Yankee Stadium.

Other major-league teams have followed suit. “God Bless America” was performed during the seventh-inning stretch at every postseason game in every stadium last year—in support of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were told.

If the supposed point was to prove that baseball cares, that the Yankees care, and the St. Louis Cardinals care, and the Boston Red Sox care, et al., well, we all care.

The pre-game performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which did not become a standard preamble to a professional sports event until 1951, is sufficient.

We are not going to forget what happened on 9-11 or forget the American troops abroad. But what we can use at this time, especially at this time, are all the healthy diversions we can get, and baseball—-even the slower-paced version we have today—-is a welcome, even necessary, diversion that helped Americans get through the emotional turmoil of World War II, wars in Korea and Vietnam and numerous other conflicts, and baseball will help Americans weather the current tumult, without any injection of over-patriotism, if we just let the game be what it is.