I love most professional sports, including college athletics, and I attend maybe 40-50 events a year. But it is getting less and less pleasant because the various leagues have mandated that sports contests become orgies of patriotism, invariably of the right wing variety. At major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, the game cannot start until a flyover of military jets.
I have no problem standing for the national anthem – which, by the way, is usually painful because some would-be American Idol insists on taking a song played by military bands in one-minute, 10 seconds and contorting it into a three-minute caterwaul.
What I do mind is a voice over a public address system commanding tens of thousands of mindless automatons – as a condition of the game actually proceeding -- to stand and listen to a variety of jingoistic jingles. Major League baseball requires a break during the 7th-inning stretch on Sundays and other special games to have people sing “God Bless America.”
What is the objection? Well, for one thing it is not the national anthem and never should be. Second, I believe God did not bless America, nor should he/she. (I am reminded of Chris Rock’s line in a movie in which he is president of the United States and implores God to bless America – and no one else.) Third, God has no place in sports, though athletes act otherwise, as if God propelled them into the end zone but then abandoned them when they were tackled for a loss. Fourth, GBA is only used to promote a right-wing agenda.
(Did you know that Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” a song played at more progressive events, wrote it specifically as an answer the Irving Berlin hit sung by Kate Smith in 1939? A time, of course, when mass rallies and blind obedience to public address announcements were in their heyday in places like Nuremberg.)
Today, in Baltimore, home of the “Star Spangled Banner,” 70,000 were told to stand to listen to something that God would certainly not bless if he/she had any musical taste. It is an abomination by a third-rate country and western performer whose career was in the toilet till in the early 1980s when he performed the atrocity called “God Bless the USA.” Everyone has heard it, almost daily since 9-11. I first heard it while covering Ronald Reagan’s re-election, when it became his de facto campaign song. Is is terrible music, nauseating treacle and, if you listen careful, asks people to “God Bless American.”
No doubt most sports fans, screaming their lungs out for violence at football and hockey games, or yelling, “kill the umpire,” are soi-disant patriots. To me, they are just political tools.
The only saving grace is that when I have remained the only one in the stadium sitting down for GBA and GBTUSA, only once did anyone say anything about it. So I threatened to punch his fucking lights out.