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Take Me Out OF the Ballgame . . .

I love Baseball.

I love the hot dogs. I love the warm peanuts. I love the game itself. But one of the things I love most about the game of baseball is that you can take fifty-thousand people from all walks of life and put them in one place with one thing in mind. There's a gestalt force at work when the home team's pitcher is staring down the visitor's star player: Fifty-thousand minds are playing the guessing game. Maybe an outside slider. Maybe the high heat. Maybe, just maybe, a little chin music followed by an appropriately funny song clip played over the P.A. system. But there's fifty thousand screaming, hysterical, joyfull people who all have one thing in mind.

It doesn't matter whether they're Republicans or Democrats, Catholics or Protestants, Hindus or Muslims, rich or poor. George Bush sits next to Gloria Steinam. Cardinals let loose with a "Whaddareyah, BLIND?" Normally pacifistic housewives get to their feet and cheer when a batter on the opposing team is hit with a retalitory pitch. It's as American as American can be.

We watch, rapt, for seven innings. The home team pulls ahead with a grand-slam home run hit by a kid just up from the minors and we all say, "Yeah, allright." We see someone overcoming the insurmountable odds of making it through a brutal farm system, get his shot, then somehow make a round bat connect with a round ball travelling ninety-five miles per hour and send the ball over the fences. Seven innings of no war. Seven innings of "I don't care who you are or what you believe cuz' Ichiro just hit one out and gimme a HIGH-FIVE!"

Then we get to the seventh inning stretch. Everyone gets to their feet. (I'm here to tell you, I don't think that there's anything else in the world that gets as many people to their feet at one time as a seventh-inning stretch.) We're all happy. We're all ready. We wait expectantly for the first strains of "Take me out to the ballgame."

And what do we hear instead? "God Bless America."

If you'll pardon me momentarily, WHAT THE FUCK?

Somehow, this is supposed to be inspiring. Somehow, this is supposed to be a good thing. But let me get this straight, will ya'? You've just spent seven innings creating a place unlike any in the world, where people of all faiths and all beliefs and all walks of life came together and joined as one in the spirit of cooperation and good fun.

Just like that, you've isolated every atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Anarchist and Canadian in the ballpark.

I know it's become de riguer to play this little song at ballgames, but c'mon. This heightened sense of patriotism has given us two wars, a President who knowingly lied to get the American public behind the second one, a hundred and fifty dead American kids who couldn't afford to go to college any other way and a renewed sense of isolationism this nation hasn't been stupid enough to tolerate since before World War II. Don't you think it's time that we stopped playing this "Us and Them," game?

If you want a world free of hatred and prejudice and murder because one persons God doesn't say what another persons God says, if you want a world where we all start to focus on our commonality of flesh and blood and compassion and love and fear and mortality and passion then please, please, stop trying to divide us!

If you care at all, give us back our baseball.

I'll have one Mariners dog, please, and hold the sermon.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.

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