Dear Boston Red Sox: You are leaving money on the table, and this weekend’s trip to England will provide a perfect opportunity for clawing it back by returning to the traditional seventh inning stretch with its “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” singalong. This is a perfect time for jettisoning “God Bless America.”
Back in April the baseball world learned of Kate Smith’s unfortunate back catalogue of songs with racist lyrics and the New York Yankees seized on the opportunity to pull Smith’s “God Bless America,” replacing it with . . . another version of the song. Talk about dropping the ball. According to Sports Illustrated,
“The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”
But it’s a tedious song that has people trapped in their seats trying to figure out if they should be putting their hands over their hearts (no, this is not an anthem) or removing their hats (again, no) when they could be singing about peanuts and Cracker Jack and getting hungry and heading off to the concession stands!
Given the current political climate what do you think the British fans might best respond to:
1) Being told to stand and listen to a jingoistic song glorifying an America that no longer exists in the popular global imagination.
2) Being told to stand up, shake their legs, stretch their arms, and sing along to an adorable little ditty about going “out to the game”? This is classic British music hall if you think about it.
Attention marketing people: This is a no-brainer! The British love stuff like this. Truth be told, so do Americans. And according to WEEI Radio, there is at least one “high-ranking Red Sox official” who agrees with me. Just end it already.
Polls show that the majority of Americans do not love “God Bless America” — Irving Berlin grew to hate it and he wrote it. And it is not our anthem! You don’t, salute, remove your hat, or even have to stand up. It’s just a song. And one that prevents fans from heading off the concession stands. (I first wrote about this in 2016 when several stadiums were pulling the song in favor kooky old American fun.)
The song itself is cloying and sentimental — Berlin thought it was maudlin and depressing, and Kate Smith came to loathe it. NESN always airs the melismatic amateur du jour screeching her way through “God Bless America” but then cuts away to commercial when the crowd launches into “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I know which one I would rather hear.
(The team may have already winnowed it down to Sundays and holidays. It’s hard to know from the television broadcasts.)
So the Red Sox are off to England this weekend to play two games with the Yankees. If this trip is all about selling this quintessentially American sport to a British audience (and the choice of those two particular teams is no accident) then let’s lay it on thick and introduce them to this weird and wonderful tradition without that confusing “God Bless America” thing. We have a beautiful anthem . . . this is not it.
Then next week the Sox and the Yankees can both come home, proclaim it a big winner for “traditional American values” (remember to repeat those three words over and over), and return to the old-fashioned seventh inning stretch with the whole crowd singing along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”