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July 8, 2002

The Daily Prospectus

God Bless America

by Derek Zumsteg

Can we stop singing "God Bless America"? Is it not enough that our national anthem has to be turned into a ten-minute note-bender by whatever local R&B star or opera singer happens to be staggering past the ballpark ten minutes before the first pitch?

Last year, sure, everyone struggled with how to find meaning in public gatherings, to affirm ourselves as a country. Which, incidentally, is a purpose "Star Spangled Banner" excels at--it's a defiant piece, about the perseverance of the flag through trial. Everyone's a little wired, sure, hold hands, sing some songs. So this season comes around, and what do we have?

All the delays and hassle of security without any actual increase in security. I get my bag searched every time I walk into a park, but Hamas could get thousands of people with those o-so-effective suicide belts in as long as none of them had a beverage on them. And we get "God Bless America", sung for the first homestand, alternate Sundays, the first weekend game after a return from a road trip, and dates evenly divisible by seven.

Is bin Laden sitting in a safe house in Pakistan laughing every time a baseball game is played without a ballpark full of people endorsing the view that America is particularly blessed by a deity who guides the future of the country?

Isn't the belief that God endorses one nation over another, or particularly favors or steers the course of history for one people, the source of so much despicable bloodshed and hatred? Why aren't we singing "God Save Afghanistan" the day after after we bomb the hell out of some group of random innocent people because some other group of guilty people fingered them? Or some good, secular tune that demonstrates pride and resolve...wait, no, we already do that before every game.

Baseball can do whatever they want; it is, after all, their game, and I don't have to go to it. If they want they can ask everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, like the demolition derby. But this is a stupid, mindless exploitation of tragedy to increase their stranglehold on fans' ability to bring food and drink into ballparks. Offering a lame jingle to make people forget that they're not actually any more safe than they were two years ago is a disgrace and baseball should be ashamed.

You want to fight terrorism? Take public transportation to the park. A portion of every tankful of gas you're buying goes to Saudi Arabia's funding of radical Islamic schools that turn out the terrorists of tomorrow, Syria's safe haven for some of the world's most vile scum, and Saddam's slush fund for the families of the suicide bombers who blow up buses of Israeli commuters. If your team doesn't already, ask them to pick their patriotic duty over the easy parking cash.

Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

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