Bounce God (and Fred Flintstone) from the Ballpark

April 17, 2009

When Bradford Campeau-Laurion was   given the bum’s rush from Yankee Stadium last August for trying to leave the stands during the singing of   God Bless America , the off-duty cop working the game who escorted him out told him he could leave the country if he didn’t like it. (This according to Campeau-Laurion’s federal lawsuit against the Yankees.)

The cops say Campeau-Laurion was using inappropriate language, was disorderly, and reeked of alcohol.

  (Hmmm…I’m just picturing how many double-decker buses it would take to clear Yankee Stadium of everyone who used inappropriate language, was disorderly, and reeked of alcohol… )

But Campeau-Laurion says he got tossed because of   when he was trying to leave the stands.  He says the Yankees blocked some of the exits during the   Irving Berlin song because it is disrespectful (unpatriotic?) to relieve oneself during this number. (Berlin, incidentally, did not believe in God,   according to his daughter .)

So let me see if I have this straight. A guy gets up to leave as the crowd sings   God Bless America , and he is   forcibly removed to the street for not getting teary-eyed with the other folks in his section? There is so much wrong with that I hardly know where to start.

George Steinbrenner, the NYPD, the government of the United States – no one – can force you to like or respect God, this country, or anything in it. They can’t make you sing about it, hold your hand over your heart for it, or remove your cap as a sign of respect. Part of America being   the land of the free entails being free to think for yourself.

Now I happen to love America.   I am an American through and through. I’ve been to lots of other countries on 5 of the 7 continents and I feel lucky to have been born here, but you can’t   compel me to be patriotic or God-fearing. On the contrary, my love for this country arises from the freedom it gives me to be an open atheist and to be uncomfortable with massive   Nuremburg-style demonstrations of patriotism at the ballpark.

By the way, why is this even an issue at a goddamn ball game? Since when did patriotism or religiosity become a litmus test for being a fan at an athletic contest? Don’t we have a   game to watch?

If you want to get all whipped up about something, make it   your team . The stands in a ball park or stadium are perfect places to light fires under your loyalties… and prejudices. But the loyalties and prejudices should involve your team vs. the other team. It might involve calling a Green Bay fan a cheesehead at a Bears game in Soldier Field – or a White Sox fan calling Sammy Sosa "Corky" after he was caught with a cork-filled bat in 2003. That’s part of the sports landscape. And that’s the kind of partisanship that belongs at a game, not lining people up for God and Uncle Sam.

Anyone who buys a ticket and behaves himself reasonably well at a game should be able to stay ‘til the end without being molested by the management or the state – regardless of his or her beliefs or politics.

For me, saying God bless America means about as much as saying Fred Flintstone bless America. It makes no sense and it’s got nothing to do with baseball.

Oh for a little "Take me out to the ball game…"