Baseball: The Last Refuge from What Divides Us
Baseball may just be one of the last remaining apolitical spaces left in American life. Americans are divided by political party, race, religion, and culture more than any time I can remember in my lifetime, but baseball has blessedly remained a refuge, a place where everyone leaves those differences at the turnstile and simply enjoys America’s favorite pastime.
Tuesday’s All Star Game was no exception. Americans from all walks of life gathered for the annual event and immersed themselves in baseball’s time-honored traditions for a few hours.
I am a lifelong baseball fan. I grew up listening to the legendary Joe Tait calling the Indians games, beginning each game with “it’s a beautiful day for baseball!” — even during the most frigid spring games in Cleveland. My parents used to load the family into the Chevy Impala (and later the Chevette when gas prices soared) for the trip to the old Cleveland Stadium back in the days when you could buy tickets for a few bucks. Though I was still in elementary school, I still vividly recall the streakers and the near-riot during the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night game in 1974 (my dad grabbed the binoculars away from me during the streakers). I learned to keep score during long, sweaty Saturday afternoons at the stadium—a skill I would put to good use during the many years our sons played baseball (and "official scorekeeper for the Indians" remains my unrequited dream job).
Compared to other sports, with their time clocks and hurried pace, baseball is almost indulgent. There is time for long conversations, hot dog breaks, and leisurely strolls around the stadium. The traditions and rituals abound, beginning with the national anthem and proceeding through the obligatory ceremonial first pitch and 7th inning stretch. An unwritten rule of baseball etiquette dictates that political discussion only occur in hushed tones so as not to disrupt the jovial atmosphere. When we're at a game together, I don't care if you're a Republican, a Democrat, or a Socialist. As long as we're wearing the same team colors, we are compatriots on this day.
The 2013 All Star Game kicked off with American Idol winner Candice Glover (donning a National League jersey) belting out the national anthem as a giant flag, held by members of the military, covered nearly the entire outfield. I always smile as I watch the players lined up during the song, shifting and wiggling, trying to contain some combination of energy and adrenaline rush. These grown men are just larger versions of the wiggly boys we see on the tee ball field. During Glover’s perfect performance, soldiers and veterans saluted and the crowd stood in respectful solidarity, erupting into a cheer when the soldiers made the flag wave during, “Oh say! Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” No Republicans. No Democrats. Go America! Play ball!