Something We’ve Lost in Sports Today

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Hi all. This isn’t really a vision of baseball today. It’s more of a commentary about something that has been lost in all the major sports which I think should make a comeback.
Over the past couple of weeks I have listened to a number of old radio broadcasts of baseball games going back to the 1940’s. Some lost things are obvious. The quick pace of play both during the game and between innings is gone. Commercials are the culprit between innings. I honestly don’t know why, particularly in the postseason the pitchers can’t uncork one, get it back from the catcher and uncork another one. A more subtle change didn’t really strike me until I had listened to some dozen games. Both in the World Series and for routine games the broadcasters would be quiet and let the National Anthem be heard. Now of course, both TV and radio avoid broadcasting the anthem like the plague. The time can be sold and you can never have too many ads for cars, beer and male products I don’t even like to think about.
My amazement wasn’t just the fact that the anthem was broadcast. What really hit me was that the audience sang along with the organ, the band or whatever accompaniment the anthem had.
This was happening in 1969 when America was racked with dissention. Two great politicians and two great Civil Rights leaders had been murdered between June of 1963 (Medgar Evers) and June of 1968 (Robert Kennedy.) Riots were a regular thing in the major cities and were just made worse by the murders. Protesting the war in Vietnam was a cottage industry. In spite of all this, attendees at the games by the thousands sang along with “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Today this country is if possible even more splintered than it was 50 years ago. Divorce, which was just beginning to be easier to come by in the 1960’s is now cancelling entirely too many marriages. Something as trivial as who you voted for in the last Presidential election is now considered grounds for divorce. Some states don’t even require definable grounds. On a darker subject, something as wonderful as the World Series has been tainted by a shocking incident. A Los Angeles man wearing Red Sox garb was stabbed and left in critical condition following the Red Sox’ victory in the last World Series. gun violence is even more of a threat than it was then. President Kennedy was shot with a bolt-action rifle of WW2 vintage. Recently, 11 people were murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a lunatic wielding the sort of weapon only a soldier or a policeman in the inner city should have. Nothing seems to stop these madmen from acquiring these weapons. Americans need to pull together as one unit the way we did after 9/11. Will it take another mass murder with uncounted thousands dead to pull us together again?
I know the anthem will never be broadcast on radio or TV. But I hope that people who attend games, whether in the major or minor leagues, whether the games are baseball, football, basketball or hockey, all should make an effort to sing the anthem. It’s a difficult song to sing, I can attest to that. One team I worked with was so desperate one night for an anthem singer that I was tapped to do it. I was terrified that I would pull a Robert Goulet and forget the words as that great star did before the second fight between Ali and Liston. Somehow I didn’t forget the words, probably because I only had some 20 minutes notice. Attendees at sporting events are asked to sing in huge groups so no individual voice will be heard. There’s no pressure on anybody. In the last few years, particularly in the NFL there has been a great flap about guys who won’t stand for the anthem. They are part of the problem, as athletes are who children look up to. I consider that a mistake. Somehow, in some small way we need to pull together, both as groups and as a nation. Singing the anthem in public and standing tall and proud as you do it would be a step.

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