Ballparks Must Stop Playing “God Bless America”

There’s two songs that everyone expects to hear when they go to a ballgame. The first, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sets the tone of the game. Then there’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played during the seventh inning stretch. These two songs are staples of the great game of baseball. Ballparks must stop playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. Its purpose went stagnant years ago.

There’s a few reasons why ballparks must stop playing “God Bless America” at ballgames.Ballparks Must Stop First, it’s too redundant. Now I love being an American. I’m thankful to God that I was born an American. But how many times do I have to stand up and pledge my allegiance? Whose approval do I need? And why of all places should it be at a ballpark? With politics dividing our nation in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Civil War, the last thing we need is a song that puts people on the spot if they don’t stand up and place their hands over their hearts in the seventh inning (I stopped doing it months ago). I’m not at a ballgame to prove that I love my country. In fact, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. That’s what makes America great. We have the freedom to express ourselves anyway we see fit as long as we’re not infringing on the rights of others. You love “God Bless America”? Hey, great! It’s your right. But don’t tell me that I have to love it too.

The Man Who Wrote The Song Didn’t Even Like It

Irving Berlin wrote the song in 1918 and thought it too depressing, so he shoved it in a drawer for 20 years. He dusted it off when World War II broke out and the rest is history. To clarify, Berlin didn’t think the song sufficied so he put it away. Berlin released it only when a radio show host asked him for a song about America she could play on her show.

Sixty years later, baseball parks appropriately started playing “God Bless America” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. It was a song many Americans sang in unity. It comforted Americans during a very dark time in our nation’s history. But now it’s a stagnant remnant and feels too much like an obnoxious “in your face” attempt to prove one’s patriotism. Gersh Huntsman of The New York Daily News stated, “The song still embodies great things about America, but also our worst things: self-righteousness, forced piety, earnest self-reverence, foam.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The song feels so much like a third wheel on a date. You don’t really want it there but you don’t want to be mean and ignore it. It doesn’t have to be there to begin with. And what you had to start was good enough. I’m talking about you and “The Star Spangled-Banner.” I feel proud to stand up and remove my hat for our National Anthem. I even get angry when I hear fans talking during the song at Fenway. “The Star-Spangled Banner” has a very significant meaning to Fenway Park. In fact, the tradition of playing the National Anthem started at Fenway Park. 

The Star-Spangled Banner Suffices

If you’re a Red Sox season ticket holder like me, then you’ve heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” hundreds of times. Not only does it mark the time when fans rise to show respect for the colors and appreciation for America, but it marks the beginning of the game! So why do we need “God Bless America”?

Let’s take a look at a few numbers while we contemplate the answer. Sheryl Kaskowitz’s 2013 book, God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song, states that about 61% of baseball fans would like to see the song removed. Her research also found that 83.8% of “very liberal” people dislike the song, while 20.5% of “very conservative” people” have a problem with it. This statistics highlight the divide and potential for causing conflicts at ballgame.

Going back to my original point, many people see the song as a litmus test for one’s patriotism. Fans who see others not standing for the song in the seventh inning might feel obligated to jeer them. “Why don’t you stand for God Bless America, huh? What are you not American?” Again, no one needs to prove anything to anyone at a ballgame except for your love for the home team. People go to ballgames to get away from politics, religion, work, etc. The last thing anyone needs is a drunken fan looking for an excuse to fight. The Yankees are coming to town this week so we’ll have enough reasons to fight as it is. We don’t need any more reasons.

Ballparks Must Stop Playing “God Bless America”

Now, I’m not for removing any and all things that offend people. Lord knows I love eating hot dogs in front of the PETA protestors in Harvard Square. That’s not what I’m getting at though. Instead, what I’m trying to say is that not only does the song contribute to the divided of the nation because it obligates citizens to unnecessarily prove their patriotism, but it’s unnecessary to begin with. It’s a song that’s overstayed its welcome. Fenway Park plays the National Anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and “Sweet Caroline.” The first two songs are as American as apple pie. So ballparks must stop forcing “God Bless America” down baseball fans’ throats. The first two are more than perfect.

Ballparks must stop playing “God Bless America.” Baseball already has two songs soaked in tradition that people on both sides of the political divide love. So let’s remove that third wheel. Sit back, sing the National Anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and enjoy the game.

Are the Red Sox Retiring Jersey Numbers Too Soon?

Red Sox Nation saw David Ortiz’s number 34 retired during a pre-game ceremony Friday night. His number retirement came eight months after his actual retirement. It also marked the third time the Red Sox retired a number in as many years. So are the Red Sox retiring jersey numbers too soon?

Three years ago I thought it was strange that the Red Sox hadn’t retired many numbersred sox retired with its long and rich history. In fact, they only started the practice in the early 1980s. Before 2015 the Red Sox had only seven retired numbers. Since 2015 they’ve retired three. In fact, the Red Sox broke their own jersey retirement rules to induct the last three. So what does this mean? Are they trying to play catch up, or are they trying to make up lost revenue?

Is Attendance A Factor In The Decision To Retire Numbers?

According to Baseball-reference.com, the Red Sox averaged 3,008,355 fans per season between 2007 and 2013. Between 2014 and 2016 the Red Sox averaged 2,930,739 fans each season. That’s a drop off of 77,616 over three years. According to an April 2016 article on Fortune.com titled “Here’s How Much a Baseball Game Will Cost You This Year,” it costs a fan about $78.50 to attend a game at Fenway Park in 2016. That includes tickets, food, beverages, and parking. So let’s say for argument’s sake that the 77,616 drop in attendance equates to a loss of $78.50 per fan. That comes to a loss of $6,092,856 over three years. Of course, it’s easy to manipulate those numbers, but no matter how you crunch them it’s bad for the Red Sox.

Seeing The Red Sox Retiring Boggs’ Number Was A Little Awkward

It made sense to retire Pedro Martinez’s number. He helped carry the Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 2004. But Wade Boggs? Yes, his time with the Red Sox made him a legend. But Boggs left Boston for New York where he won his only World Series Championship in 1998. In fact, he wore his Yankee World Series ring to his jersey retirement ceremony at Fenway Park much to the irk of many. While fans liked seeing the much-beloved Boggs’ number retired, it made other wonder why now? Why him? Was it an effort to bring older fans back to the ballgame so they could reignite their love for the game? Was it an effort to get its younger fanbase to tap into the rich history of the Red Sox? No matter how you dice it retiring Boggs’ number came off as awkward.

Are the Red Sox Retiring Numbers Too Soon?

So are the Red Sox retiring numbers too soon, or are they truly trying to honor their legends? Or are they trying to make up for lost revenue? The Red Sox have a staggering payroll and losing $6 million equates to about six or seven of their players making between $500-600,000 a year. No matter how you look at it, the frequency in retiring numbers does give true fans pause about how sincere the intentions are.

The Chris Sale Ticket is the Best Since Pedro

The overlying bright spot of the Red Sox season so far has been the utter electricity of Chris Sale. His pace, stuff and attitude make the Chris Sale ticket at Fenway the hottest since the Pedro Martinez days.

Part of Boston’s recent love affair with Sale has been the similarities between he and Pedro.Chris Sale ticket Both came with plenty of hype. Sale came in December as the established number one pitcher in the American League. Both have war-like intensity on and off the mound. Pedro threw down 72-year old Don Zimmer and Sale cut up the entire team’s throwback jerseys he didn’t want to wear. Both live on the inside corner like the second coming of Bob Gibson. And both are good. Like, really good.

Sale vs Pedro

In the first month of his Red Sox tenure, Chris Sale has been near unhittable. He has tied the record for most strikeouts through his fist six starts with a new team. He has 63, leading the major leagues. Whose record did he tie? Some guy named Randy Johnson; you may have heard of him. While the offense supporting him has sucked, he has been nothing short of remarkable. With only a 2-2 record, he has a 1.38 ERA and leads the league in innings pitched.

But it wasn’t just Pedro’s numbers that made his ticket so coveted—it was the perfect storm that came with all his starts. On days Pedro started, Fenway was the center of the baseball world. The stands were littered with Dominican flags, “K” signs covered the back rows of the bleachers, and every fan stood with feverish anticipation whenever a batter had two strikes on him. With the pink hats and corporate atmosphere of Fenway today, Chris Sale is as close as we are going to get to that.

Chris Sale Ticket Brings Eexcitement and the Unexpected

When Sale is pitching, you don’t really know what to expect. You know he’ll work quickly and strike out everyone in the lineup, which makes things exciting. You don’t know, however, what kind of history or animosity he’ll bring. Just Tuesday night, he lit the park up by throwing behind new public enemy number one: Manny Machado. Not only did Sale send a message, he proceeded to strike him out. In fact, he struck out the first five batters he faced and went into the sixth inning without allowing a hit. Right now, Sale is the most entertaining pitcher to watch in the sport. Not the AL, the sport.

For me and most Red Sox fans I know, the anticipation for Sale’s starts are unrivaled. People around me must be getting sick of seeing me in my Sale shirt every fifth day. I can’t help it, I haven’t seen a Red Sox starter as electrifying as him. We’ve seen some good ones since Pedro, but none that were ‘must-see TV’. Schilling, Lester, Beckett, and Porcello have had great runs, but nothing like Pedro. Watching Schilling, Lester or even Beckett in the post-season was enthralling, but nothing like it in the regular season. None of those guys could pull eyes away from a Celtics playoff game. Chris Sale has and will continue to do so.

Granted, it has only been a little over a month of Chris Sale in Boston. He has brought back the glory days of intense, bulldog starters for the Red Sox. If this continues, he is finally the next in line of the Roger Clemens/Pedro Martinez gamers in Red Sox uniforms. I don’t care what the Red Sox have to do, but please keep this guy here as long as possible. With him, I see rings, Cy’s and Cooperstown.

Long live Chris Sale! Thank you for bringing that excitement back.

Instances of Racism Haunt Fenway

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones claimed that he was the focus of racist taunts during Monday’s game at Fenway Park. A fan threw a bag of peanuts at him while others taunted him with racial slurs. While those fans were ejected, it’s another example of how instances of racism haunt Fenway Park. Not only are these instances ignorant and immature, but Racism Haunt Fenwaythey embarrass the City of Boston.

This isn’t the first instance of racism that Fenway has witnessed. Back in 1945 Jackie Robinson and two other Negro League players were given a try out at Fenway Park. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey allegedly yelled from the stands “Get that nigger off the field!” when he saw Robinson. Yawkey, never known for his progressive views, was the owner when they became the last team to integrate in 1959 when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox. Ted Williams, himself a Mexican American, was one of the few players on the team who took the time to embrace his new teammate by asking him to warm up with him before a game. During his own induction speech, Williams called for the induction of Negro Leaguers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Is There a Double Standard?

Many are saying that Jones’ claims aren’t valid. Some are even saying he’s lying or exaggerating. They argue that no one ever called David Ortiz those same slurs, so why should they believe Jones? That’s because Boston fans loved Ortiz. Jones, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s known as someone who calls it the way he sees it, and instead of responding to his ideas in a mature way, people focus on his race to discredit him. Those people not only disrespect opposing viewpoints, but they can’t even form coherent responses. For them, it’s easier to shout something racist than it is to think of a logical and insightful opinion. Then again, Fenway’s a ballpark and not a university, so these types of instances shouldn’t be happening to begin with.

The particularly disgusting thing about this incident though is that people paid money to come to the ballpark and act this way. It’s fine if you want to boo him for being an Oriole. But throwing peanuts at him? You not only make yourself look stupid, but you give Boston a bad reputation.

Instances of Immaturity and Racism Haunt Fenway

Last Sunday I sat in the grandstand to watch the final series game between the Red Sox and Cubs. Sitting behind me was a twenty-something who clearly had had too much to drink. The immature, sexist, racist, and derogatory things he said right out loud during the game embarrassed me in front of our Chicago guests. This guy talked about his blatant use of women as objects, his drug habit, and didn’t refrain from using bad language around kids. He was your typical obnoxious fan whose beliefs and opinions reflect a low I.Q.

It’s bad enough that I have to deal with fans like this. But it’s worse when they become national news. If you’re going to be so stupid as to think your race is better than someone else’s, then stay home. Bostonians don’t want to hear what you have to say. As instances of racism haunt Fenway, instead of being a jerk, be that fan who screams with joy when Hanley Ramirez hits another homer over the Green Monster. And if you hear someone shouting something racist, tell them to shut up, or call security and let them handle it.

Why Does Fenway Park Feel So Empty This Season?

I’ve had season tickets since 2015 and every game I wiggle through large crowds to get to my seats. Even in their bad years Fenway Park always seemed packed. On a good day large crowds congregated on Lansdowne Street. Vendors peddle programs, peanuts, and t-shirts. It’s difficult to break through the crowds on these days. The chaos, however, Fenway Park feelis what makes going to Fenway so much fun. Lately though it feels like something’s missing. Entire sections of bleacher seats are vacant. There doesn’t seem to be as many vendors stationed outside the park. The 50/50 raffle drawing pot isn’t nearly what it was last season. So why does Fenway Park feel so empty this season?

For one thing the weather hasn’t been too cooperative. A rainout cancelled the first game of the series between the Red Sox and Yankees. Wednesday’s game made for a very wet and damp night. An unverified rumor claimed that Wednesday’s game saw the fewest fans between the two rivals in years. That’s uncharacteristic of a series between the two. But what are the other reasons?

You could argue that the absence of David Ortiz is keeping fans away. There’s no more Big Papi to root for. After he retired, fans weren’t left with anyone on the team to really cheer for. Sure, there’s players like Dustin Pedrioa but he doesn’t appeal to fans the way Ortiz did. While that might not be the entire reason, it’s difficult not to notice the differences in the crowds between this season and last. Another reason is that the Red Sox aren’t playing too well. The front office spent hundreds of millions of dollars on big-names and so far they’ve seen little return on their investment. It doesn’t help when Chris Sale strikes out ten but still loses the game due to a lack of run support.

Why Does Fenway Park Feel Empty? Don’t Worry, It Won’t Last Long

On a more rationale level though, it’s important to remember that the season is barely a month old. School’s still in session. The weather hasn’t leveled out yet. More fans should come when school gets out and the weather gets more consistent. But for the first time since moving here, I’m hearing more and more fans say out loud that they’re not going to pay for a ticket to watch the Red Sox lose when they can just stay at home and watch them for free. Fenway Park is one of the most expensive parks in baseball. Add bad weather and hitting to that and you got empty seats.

While I know the fanbase will grow as the weather gets warmer, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is making Fenway Park feel empty. I hate seeing fans leave so early. I also hate seeing Lansdowne and Yawkey Way less crowded before games. But as Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams said, “People will come…People will most definitely come.”

Red Sox Nation Needs To Take A Deep Breath

The Red Sox are struggling to break out of third place. Setbacks against the Orioles and Yankees are making fans freak out. Calls to fire John Farrell and trade away key players are swirling on Twitter. Fans are getting emotional because the setbacks of last year are still fresh in their minds. It’s understandable, even justified, to get frustrated. But Red Sox Nation needs to take a deep breath and remember that it’s only May. There’s hundreds of Red Sox Nation Needsgames the Red Sox have yet to play and a lot can happen between now and October.

One of first demands that fans are making is for Farrell’s ousting. Fans scream that he’s been in too long, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, etc. But few of us, if any, know how to actually manage a baseball team. We don’t know what he knows. It’s easy to say what Farrell should have done AFTER a play went wrong. Plus I highly doubt the Red Sox front office would keep him around and spend the money they are spending if they didn’t have confidence in him. Yes, I was one of the many calling for his ouster last year. But he did lead the Sox to another AL East title, so he must have done something right.

Much of the frustration stems from society’s inability to stay calm. This impulse is evident in the world of sports. We’re evolved into a society that expects instant gratification. We no longer live in an era where we have to wait until the next day to read about what happened in a game. Back in the early 1990s I had to wait until the next morning to read about how the Red Sox did in the paper. Now all we have to do is look at our phones. We get angry at one bad play and that anger gets worse a few minutes later if our favorite players don’t instantly play better. We go from being fans, to ESPN analysts, to managers during a three-hour ballgame. We’re getting information faster than ever but all it seems to do is make us less patient.

Red Sox Nation Needs To Stay Calm, But Maintain Its Vigilance

When the Red Sox don’t pull their weight they should expect their fan base to give them a hard time. If a player doesn’t hustle he deserves to get booed. Same goes for a pitcher who doesn’t back up first. But to demand that someone be fired or traded away just because of one bad play or a loss is ridiculous. Unfortunately, that’s what I’m seeing on Twitter and Facebook. If Farrell keeps Wright in an inning too long then Boston demands a public execution. So while Red Sox Nation needs to remain a loyal fanbase, they also need to  remember that the season is still young. If fans start making ridiculous demands now they’ll never stop. Or else next thing you know Rick Porcello will get booed because he didn’t throw an immaculate inning.

Relax, take a deep breath, and remember that it’s only a game. It’s fun to be a fan, and it’s fun to be emotional invested in a team. But at the end of the day we’re just fans.