Thursday, July 05, 2007

God bless baseball

We spent a classic Fourth of July. For the first seven hours, I exercised my First Amendment right to publish a newspaper. Then I slept for a few hours, and slowly jogged myself awake by watching the Cubs play the Nationals and then watching an exercise in the best of America: an angry documentary called "Who Killed the Electric Car?" that blasted oil companies, car companies and the government in roughly equal measure.

Then we went to the baseball game, sitting near the top, just at the edge of the roof with enough shade and breeze to fend off the summer heat. It was a fine day and a good game, although the local boys didn't show much offense. We finished off the day by watching "1776," a favorite Fourth of July pleasure.

My only gripe was the decision at the ballgame to replace the usual seventh-inning stretch playing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."

People weren't sure how to act. Some treated it like the National Anthem, removing their hats and holding their hands over their hearts. I stood, of course, since it was the seventh-inning stretch, but, sorry, I'm not taking my hat off for Lee Greenwood.

It isn't that I don't much like songs that tell God what to do. I have pretty well gotten over my fundamentalist background, which preached that using God's name to promote secular purposes, even love of country, borders on blasphemy. And it isn't because Greenwood says "ain't." I'm no purist about such matters, but he doesn't sound like the sort of person who drops "ain't" in casual conversation. Why would he adopt it when he's aspiring to a certain grandeur of expression? Is he striving for the common touch, or does he just have a tin ear?

The only reason I really objected was that Greenwood replaced a song that already is one of America's finest patriotic works. Not only does it celebrate America's greatest game ("Take Me Out to the Ballgame") but it also pays homage to most of the best of America:

* Unity ("Take me out to the crowd"),

* Consumerism ("Buy me some"),

* American cuisine ("peanuts and crackerjack"),

* Liberty ("I don't care if I never get back"),

* Freedom of speech ("Let me root, root, root")

* Loyalty ("for the home team")

* Empathy ("If they don't win it's a shame"),

* Pragmatism ("For it's one, two, three strikes you're out") and

* Respect for tradition ("at the old ball game").

Don't tell me that "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" isn't patriotic enough for the Fourth of July. No song describes America better.


Anonymous said...

Even if they weren't bashing the ball, it sure was better than a day at work, wasn't it?

Chuck Rightmire said...

I heard the game was fun if disappointing for Billings fans. And I also heard that the seventh inning song didn't sound as good as the old standard. I agree with your analysis of it as well.

KIrk Dooley said...

My version of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame":

Take me out to the ball game
Pickpockets in the crowd
Six bucks for a peanut or a Cracker Jack
Steinbrenner's stabbing everybody in sight in the back
Oh, it's root, root, root for the lawyers
If they don't win, it's a shame
There'll be one, two, three strikes today
At the ol' ball game

The story goes that Harry Carey used to sing TMOTTBG to himself in the press box ("It's the only sing I know the words to," he once said) at old Comiskey Park, with only the folks just below being able to hear him. Bill Veeck (in his second tour of ownership with the White Stockings) noticed that those folks were singing along, and hid a microphone in the press box.

The next game, Harry started singing and was startled to hear his voice booming over the PA system. After the game he asked Veeck what was going on.

"Harry," Veeck replied, "when I heard you sing, I knew that I had found the one man I'd been looking for to do this for many years."

Harry was puffed up with pride...until Veeck added, "Once people heard you sing, they knew they could sing better, so they would sing along. A good singer would've intimidated them."

After listening to many of the guest singers the Cubs have brought in since Harry's passing, I've come to the conclusion that Harry wasn't all that bad...