God Bless America.
God Bless America, where Dale Petroskey gets lambasted. By movie stars, and those who dislike and disagree with those movie stars. By baseball fans and freedom fans. By Republicans and Democrats alike. And all this for not letting Bull Durham star Tim Robbins visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.
God Bless America, where Manhattanville’s Toni Smith has the right to turn her back on the flag. And where others have the right to criticize her actions, but not intimidate or threaten her. Where she can be kicked off the team, but not out of the country.
God Bless America, where we play sports during war. Where we give soldiers something to think about other than their orders at the end of a hard day. Where the NCAA tournament goes on as normal, a touch of familiarity in an unfamiliar world.
God Bless America, where Steve Nash can oppose war and David Robinson support it. Where they can criticize each other and still retain a professional demeanor. Where they can play on the same floor as Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and Nene Hilario. Where their games are simulcast around the globe in Spanish. And German. And Chinese. And French. Where they can all become stars.
God Bless America, where Martha Burk can protest the Masters. And be inspired to do so by a sports columnist. Where her arch-nemesis’ name is “Hootie.” Where, as a result of the protest’s ramifications upon corporate sponsorship, the Masters can be presented commercial-free. And the fans can benefit, regardless of their views on the Augusta National Golf Club’s membership.
God Bless America, where “God Bless America” is both motto and song. Where both are beloved and simultaneously found objectionable. Where preachers give pre-game prayers in some locker rooms, but not in others. Where Lew Alcindor finds religion and becomes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Where he has the subsequent right to sue Sharmon Shah for finding the same religion and becoming Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
God Bless America, where Pete Rose can be both hero and villain. Where his prior sins are forgiven by some, eternally condemned by others. Where he and Bud Selig can sit in a room and try to figure out how to repair their public image by working together.
God Bless America, where Mike Tyson is still a draw. Even if it is only because he is perceived as a walking, talking freak show. Where he can recognize this public perception and exploit it for millions of dollars.
God Bless America, where ESPN is lifeblood. Where thousands make their living covering sports, and millions more spend their free time watching it. Where sport mixes with Hollywood. Where Ben Affleck critiques the Red Sox and Michael Jordan is a movie star. Where fictional heroes resound in cinematic lore like the real stars they emulate: Rocky, Rudy, Nuke.
God Bless America, where I can use the phrase “God Bless America” 14 times in one column, and still not break any sort of record. Where a free press allows Americans to publicly agree or disagree with our president. Or our commissioner. Or our referees. Or this column. Where I can write, “Dale Petroskey is a big dope for canceling Tim Robbins’ visit to the Hall of Fame. He should be fired.”
God. Bless. America.