I’m as patriotic as the next guy. Or gal. I served three years in the U.S. Army—as a volunteer. (Amazing how many patriots avoid military service.) I pay taxes without complaint. I vote. And I continually thank this country for provided a safe home and a world of opportunity to my family and millions of others. So I stand at attention and hold my hat or hand over my heart whenever the National Anthem is played. And I do it proudly.

But what is it with singing “God Bless America” (written by Irving Berlin) during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games?

I remember Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” on her TV show back in the early fifties. A response to the Cold War and anti-communist fervor (remember Sen. Joe McCarthy) in Washington? Maybe. But McCarthy’s witch-hunt disgraced himself—and the nation.

The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team adopted Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” back in 1969 as a good luck charm. Fine. For them. But isn’t the Star-Spangled Banner before each game enough for the rest of us? Note: I loved Lyle Lovett’s “Banner” before game four of the Giants-Rangers Series. No styling, no ego. Just straight-ahead and heartfelt.

Ever since 9/11, Major League Baseball has been intent on proving its patriotism. And on we fans proving ours. But being asked to stand again (well, I do need the stretch)—and remove our hats again—for one more “anthem” strikes me as excessive. Queen Gertrude in Hamlet offers, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Must real patriots wear the flag on their sleeves?

Another quote comes to mind. Stephen Decatur (1779-1820), while serving as Naval Commissioner, proposed: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” Something to think about—the part about being wrong. It can happen.

Carl Schurz (1829-1906), the first German-born U.S. Senator, provided a reflective take. “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” In politics, war or anything else in life, loyalty shouldn’t blind us to our mistakes. Or prevent us from correcting them. We boo the umpire. And we toss politicians out of office. The nation just did, whether or not the new political winds blow with or against you. The Constitution maintains our right to speak out. Moreover, it’s our duty to do so.

So while I’m tempted to remain seated during the next singing of “God Bless America” at a ballgame, I probably won’t. And if asked, I’ll take off my hat.

But honestly, love of country isn’t just about what we sing. It’s about what we do. So God, bless America by all means. Bless us, too, with the sense to act with integrity and humility.

And, with all due respect to Homer Simpson, let’s think about invoking a little less “USA! USA!” and “We’re number one!”


  1. Ira Fateman on November 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I agree. In fact, I do not remember the playing of God Bless America at the SF Giants game I attended this year including a couple with you. Of course I just turned 60 so my memory could be failing. As a child of the 60’s and having not served in the military there is a certain innate skepticism I have with the label “patriot” or trying to label an individual more or less patriotic. Each election, regardless of the result and the the fact that i vote every time is a demonstration of my commitment to the process we have established as the bulwark of our democracy. Maybe we should register voters at each baseball game with an announcement at 7th inning stretch to register to vote at the ballpark.

  2. Ron Laupheimer on November 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I agree with your thought, but I believe you will not find Middle America agreeing with us. People felt a need to do something in light of 9/11, and this additional singing at sporting and other events was the response. I would like to replace the “Star Spangled Banner” as our country’s National Anthem, but that is another story.

    Ron: 9/11 was almost ten years ago. It still hurts. But emotions aren’t enough. I think playing “God Bless America” has run its course. As to “The Star Bangled Banner,” I like hearing it, not singing it. I can keep it—or go with “America the Beautiful”.

  3. Herb Z on November 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    I enjoy “god Bless America” as sung by various talents at Citifield at weekend games. Most times, the crown joins in, +singing lowly at first and reaching a cresendo by the conclusion. It’s a feel good item, much like a knish at Ben’s!

    Herb: Nothing beats a knish at Ben’s on Queens Boulevard. Or, almost nothing.

  4. Ron Tedwater on November 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Thanks for the post

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  6. maria andros on December 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for the post, keep posting stuff

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