The Seventh Inning Kvetch

This past Fathers Day, my son, Essej, took me along with his two boys–my grandsons— to a Mets game at Citifield.  This was Julian’s and Levi’s (minors do not qualify for the witless protection program) first time at a professional ballgame and surprisingly, they seemed to be underwhelmed.  But at least they each got some cotton candy–that’s right, not peanuts or crackerjacks but freakin’ cotton candy! At a baseball game! Come on!  Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio!?

But that’s not what this is about. Prior to the start of the game, as is traditional, the crowd was asked to stand while someone sang the Star Spangled Banner. That was expected.  But later on, in the middle of the seventh inning, the seventh inning stretch, the public address announcer asked everyone to stand again and remove their caps while we listened to a rendition of God Bless America.  (This, I understand, has been the custom of many ball clubs since 9/11.)   I ordinarily don’t wear a hat but on that day I was; and for a moment I considered not taking it off.  You see, although, of course the 9/11 tragedy has meaning for me, I’ve never been a big fan of wholesale patriotism. I think it can be dangerous and is often used as a bludgeon. And sometimes it’s monumentally hypocritical. (You probably think I’m referring to draft-dodging Donald Trump’s mawkish embrace of “my Vets”. I’m not.)  A case in point: God Bless America was written by Irving Berlin, a Jew, in 1918.  There were many country clubs, hotels, and other institutions that were off-limits to that Jew for nearly the next 30 years. That’s almost ironic, no?  But the truth is that, it’s much more likely that I was reluctant to remove my hat because I’m neurotically oppositional. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the most correct.

This paean to patriotism was followed by the customary, Take Me Out To The Ballgame.  Now that’s a song I can really get behind and I and the rest of crowd really got into belting it out.  Americana at its best.

My experience at the game got me thinking about a story a friend of mine recently told me.  He had just bought a condominium in Florida and went to his first condo association meeting .  Apparently, this association starts all of its meetings by asking everyone to stand and recite the Pledge Of Allegiance. Not to the condo . . . but to “the United States of America.”  I was gobsmacked when I heard that. There’s something going on in the country that eludes me. I don’t think I’ve had to recite the Pledge since the sixth grade and I’ve replaced it with other things that I struggle to remember. But what’s really disturbing about this story is that this took place on the east (Jewish/liberal) coast of Florida. I can only imagine what it’s like on the other coast, say in Naples.  I bet they’re not only “pledging” but, almost certainly, they have a dress code too. Now, that’s where I’d really have to draw the line!




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