Tonight is game 4 of the 2006 World Series. I have two major interests in this year’s Series:
- Having grown up in Grand Rapids, I have always been somewhat of a Tigers fan, although I’ve always preferred National League ball, and grew up watching the Cubs at least as much as the Tigers. Also, my Dad and extended family (most of which still lives in western Michigan) are Tigers fans, so I’ll be happy for them if their team wins.
Not that I wouldn’t be watching anyway, but having something to root for (or, more importantly, to root against, in the case of the Cardinals) is nice. The downside to being interested in and closely watching the World Series is that you have to put up with the Fox Sports broadcast. In this case, that means dealing with play-by-play commentary from life-long Cardinals fan and son of a former Cardinals play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, and color commentary from former Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver. I doubt anybody has ever accused Fox of being unbiased.
The thing, though, that annoys me the most about watching post-season baseball is the forced and contrived nationalism during the 7th-inning stretch. Since shortly after September 11th, 2001, we are “treated” to God Bless America during the stretch of regular-season games on Sundays, and all post-season games. The connection being made is obvious enough: baseball is our national pastime, and thus a part of what defines us as Americans; somehow it is even a part of our national religion. And of course that last part is where the annoyance lies: not only are we expected to get teary-eyed and patriotic, we are also assumed to be religious, and to furthermore tie our patriotism and religion together in a way that can only be appropriately captured by a cheesy Irving Berlin song.
I’m sure that at least part of my annoyance in this ritual stems from the fact that Wrigley seems to be the only park that still sticks with singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the stretch, as Harry did for so many years. Fans of other teams probably don’t feel as slighted as I do when they are denied that tradition. Moreover, though, the phoneyness of it all is what really gets to me: the falsetto in which “God Bless America” is inevitably delivered; the faux reverence with which it is introduced by Buck; the cliched shots of crowd members with their hats off and their hands across their hearts and their somber faces looking off to the American flag above the scoreboard. It’s as if everybody is in on the act, and nobody’s mentioning how insincere it all is.
At least Joe Buck isn’t able to come up with a way to give Tony La Russa all of the credit.