From the Times -
The most patriotic moments at Yankee Stadium can also be the most confining.
Seconds before “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” are played, police officers, security guards and ushers turn their backs to the American flag in center field, stare at fans moving through the stands and ask them to stop. Across the stadium’s lower section, ushers stand every 20 feet to block the main aisle with chains.
The national anthem has long been a pregame staple at sporting events. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Major League Baseball directed teams to play “God Bless America” before the bottom of the seventh inning at every game. Baseball scaled back the next season, telling teams they needed to play the song only on Sundays and holidays, which is still the case.
Only the Yankees continue to play “God Bless America” at every home game. They are also the only ones to use chains to prevent fans from moving during both songs, which concerns some civil liberties advocates.
“Mr. Steinbrenner wanted to do all games to remind the fans about how important it is to honor our nation, our service members, those that died on Sept. 11 and those fighting for our nation,” Rubenstein said in a telephone interview.
In the month after the attacks, baseball and patriotism seemed to be intertwined, and the idea to restrict the movement of fans was born. Lonn A. Trost, the team’s chief operating officer, said fans sent the Yankees’ front office hundreds of e-mail messages and letters and made phone calls to complain about how other fans were not paying respect.
“The fans were telling us it was a disgrace that when the song was being sung people were not observing it with a moment of silence,” Trost said.
Patrick Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said teams determine what is appropriate at their stadiums. The Yankees are the only major league team to use chains, according to a survey of teams. But at least eight others — the Marlins, the Phillies, the Padres, the Rangers, the Twins, the Astros, the Athletics and the Red Sox — instruct ushers to prevent fans from moving through the aisles when the songs are played.
Given the traffic situation now up in the Bronx, on the day of Yankees games, I think this whole thing is moot. Fans are getting into the park too late to be there for “The Star-Spangled Banner” and they’re leaving early (to beat the traffic) before “God Bless America.”
O.K., seriously, I do believe that fans were upset about other fans actions (or lack thereof) during the playing of these songs. At the Stadium, you always hear splattered echoes of individual fans yelling out “Hat’s off!” directed at some fan(s) who choose not to remove their caps during “God Bless America.”
But, chaining in the fans to restrict movement? “Didn’t Principal Joe Clark lose his job at Eastside High School in Paterson (NJ) for locking fire exits with chains?” someone might be thinking here.
There is a difference, of course. The Yankees are not using locks and chains…just chains to block off the openings into the field level boxes.
Maybe the Yankees should replace the chains with some pretty red velvet ropes? It would serve the same purpose…and not make people feel so “chained up.” Either that, or, stop playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning of every game – just as everyone else has, now, in baseball.