Baseball, they say, is America’s favorite past-time. I confess that I don’t pay much attention to it, except at unusual times such as we have now, as the Philadelphia Phillies are playing in the “World” Series. I really wish I could just turn off the television and pretend that none of this is happening, but I can’t seem to help myself. You see, I have very mixed sentiments when it comes to professional sports. On the one hand, it would seem to be a harmless diversion, so long as it is indulged with due prudence. There is also the added benefit, that, unlike the 1993 Phillies team that went to the “World” Series, the players in 2008 are fairly well-kempt. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if pride in the hometown team is not a diluted form of a more pernicious civic pride, whereby we find our unity not as neighbors with each other as individuals, but as subjects of the same overlords at Broad and Market Sts.
The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Take, for instance, the absurd, piggish Americanism on display at this (and probably every other) “World” Series. First, there is the insistence on calling it the World Series and on naming its victor world champions. There was a time when this was literally true, but no more. These terms only denote the typical American arrogance in thinking that the accomplishments on this shore are the only ones that matter. And when the Japanese kick our asses in Olympic baseball–in or in the Little League World Series (a real world series), for that matter–we just pretend it didn’t happen. Oh, and by the way, Americans didn’t even invent baseball. File that one in the “Al Gore invented the internet” folder.
If these arrogant allocutions aren’t enough, there is an accompanying ritual of State worship which is dumb, stupid, imbecilic, and, needless to say, in poor taste. I am referring, of course, to the singing of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch. To hell with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame!” That song does not heap due reverence upon the thugs that loot the fruits of our labors in the name of making the world “safe for democracy.” No, you must listen to this stupid song, and you must enjoy it, even if you have a music degree from a major conservatory. Earlier this year, Yankee Stadium management threw a guy out because he tried to use the restroom during this voodoo Statist incantation.
It will not suffice, of course, to have any old citizen with a “good” voice sing this piece of trash. No, it must be a member of the U.S. Death Squad Military, decked out in his or her finest uniform. I don’t know how well these people sing; I always get to the mute button before I can be assaulted with their most-likely poorly calibrated intonation. Last night, perhaps as a joke, the TV crews showed a picture of Independence Hall at the conclusion of this august, holy ritual, as if Thomas Jefferson or James Monroe would approve of all this absurdity.
What’s wrong with a stupid song? Well, first of all, it has been known from the time of the most ancient philosophers that music has a particularly virile power to seduce men into thinking or doing things they otherwise would not do–in this circumstance, worship the USA. In the case of “God Bless America,” however, there is a further consideration. The text of this music is pedestrian in the extreme, and perhaps its vapidness covers up something even more to be regretted: the self-righteous posture of what is purportedly a prayer. The tone of it all sounds something like, “Hey God, bless us and give us more SUV’s, or we’re gonna bomb whichever country you live in and take all yer’ oil.” This is a far cry from those ancient Latin prayers with wordings such as, “O Lord, we humbly beseech thee in thy mercy….”
Because of all this mountebankery surrounding American baseball, I have had plenty of reason to resist getting on the Phillies bandwagon. But last night, on a walk to the store following the game, I got to rethinking all this. Yes, baseball, and other sports, are used as occasions to nakedly worship State power, and many of the partakers of the festivities buy into it. But this would not seem to be an intrinsic part of the activity. Many, I’m sure, just ignore all this stupidity and get along just fine. Moreover, seeing that most people don’t change and never will, we would be left to allowing only Statists to enjoy sports if we were to become too uptight about all this, and that would perhaps be the gravest injustice of all–the idea that only Statists could partake of such otherwise wholesome activity.
The joy on the streets of Philadelphia in the wee hours of Monday morning was palpable. A city which has not had a professional sports championship in 25 years is one game away from breaking the dry spell. Even if many of them are acting like fools and baboons, I have never seen the people of Philadelphia happier than they are right now. This city, which for five or six decades has been a ruinous hellhole of government mismanagement, mediocrity, and disappointment, just might finally have something to be genuinely happy about.
And the fact that such joy would be coming from something other than a Utopian government plan (save for the fact that the taxpayers funded the stadium…) just might be what we need.