Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I Am Unamerican: Baseball and Nationalism Continued

As if I didn't know enough about my unamerican-ness already, I turned on the radio in the car today to see if the A's pregame show was on, and heard my recent topic of separation of baseball and state being blasted. (The pregame show wasn't on yet.) I never listen to talk radio, and I certainly don't listen to shock-jocks, and I imagine this was some sort of combination of shock-jock-sports-talk-radio. Apparently Goshen College has decided to stop playing the national anthem at sporting events, something they only started in January. Their students, faculty, board, and alumni felt strongly enough that the pacifist, Mennonite tradition was not represented by the anthem to stop playing the song. (You can read more about Mennonites and peace at their website.)

The sports shock-jock (I'm not going to bother looking him up- partially because of the filter bubble, which will be the subject of my next book review) continued haranguing Goshen College. Clearly, they were unamerican, because Americans play the national anthem at sporting events. Although I didn't understand the logic, if Goshen College was American, they would play it, and because they're not, they would have sat around and had tea with the British. Obviously, the country was founded on revolution, and war, and so that's part of sports. The host said if he was on a team in the same conference as Goshen, he would make sure to beat Goshen so badly they'd never forget it, like 200 to nothing. A co-host (?) on the show suggested some alternatives: "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful" which I suppose were supposed to be patriotic without being war-like, but he didn't expand, and then the host suggested "This Land is Your Land." This struck me as kind of funny: Can you imagine singing a song which has been adopted as a camp song before a sports game? It really brings home the "play" aspect of sports, which I don't think was the intention of Mr Shock. The Fox News story quotes some residents disapproving the decision, suggesting the college take its views to Iran or Cuba- this is not unlike what the radio show was arguing.

I got all of this in the two or three minutes that I could tolerate. Interestingly, this uproar does exactly what I proposed in the last blog: separates both church and state from baseball (and sports in general) at a small institution. The institution is a religious institution, though, which complicates matters: can baseball be played there without religious implications? I think in this case, Goshen College is making the decision to make the field a real playing field, for sports. The game is played out, as sports are, free of nationalism, free of religion, on the field. The school itself may represent Mennonite beliefs, but the field, by not playing the anthem (which has Judeo-Christian references throughout, especially in the verses not commonly sung) becomes religion-free. Pacifism, it is true, can be construed as a religious belief (the Mennonites are case in point), but by definition is not nationalistic. I believe it is patriotic to be a pacifist, but not in the aggressive sense. To me, Goshen College has figured it out.


thb said...

So, not only did bin Laden screw up airports for everyone, he made it impossible to sit through the anthem (in small protest) because now you get berated by fellow game attendees...as unpatriotic. And, praising the military is everywhere now at sports events as teams wrap themselves in the flag at every opportunity (or create them)