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The retired Marine who sang “God Bless America” last night was not a retired Marine

Oct 24, 2013, 5:27 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 5.25.25 PM

Which isn’t to say he was a fraud or anything like that. The man who sang “God Bless America” during last night’s game was a Marine and he had permission from the Marines to wear the uniform. And, based on his back story — he’s a former state trooper who served with distinction — he seems like a fine man.

But as Deadspin reports today, he was not a “retired” Marine as that term is typically employed. And, all things being equal, he should not have been permitted to wear his Marine uniform due to the regulations which attach to Marines who have separated from service. It’s an interesting read, so go check it out.

My view: this is the result, I think, of the extreme level of militarism and patriotism to the point of jingoism that has come to characterize Major League Baseball’s big events. It’s become such an imperative in the minds of the league that they — or whoever allowed this — is now willing to risk skirting the normal rules of military decorum in order to have a guy in uniform on the field snapping a salute in dress blues. As if it would be awful to not have a uniformed serviceman sing a song.  As Deadspin’s story makes clear, though, the league does so at the cost of ticking off some Marine veterans, and at some point we have to ask ourselves if we’ve gone overboard with this stuff.

Tonight: The Anthem and “America the Beautiful” (which should be the Anthem in my view and is way better than “God Bless America”) will be sung by James Taylor. Let me preempt all of tomorrow’s controversy, though, by getting it out there: though he will likely be described as a “singer/songwriter” tonight, two of his biggest hits were written by Carole King and the Holland, Dozier, Holland songwriting team, respectively.

  1. cocheese000 - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    Is deadspin the new king of sports media? It seams like they are the ones that report most news stories.

    • spursareold - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      The regular media is only interested in ratings, and is owned by big corporations. You have to piss people off to report the news, and people that believe in or follow the people they piss off will tune out if they do.

  2. philsieg - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    which should be the Anthem in my view and is way better than “God Bless America”
    Absolutely agree, Craig. But if we were to switch, it has to be made explicit that the only version of “America the Beautiful” that’s acceptable is the Ray Charles version.

    • mgv38 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:47 PM

      Amen.

  3. jlovenotjlo - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    The best form of Patriotism seems to be the one that’s shoved down your throat, inning after inning.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:41 PM

      Deep Throat Patriotism?

  4. DJ MC - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    I’ll defend to the death “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, but any ballpark that chooses to play “God Bless America” over “America, The Beautiful” should be shamed for their decision.

    • nbjays - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:48 PM

      As a Canadian, I really admire “The Star Spangled Banner” as a national anthem.

      BUT…FOR…GOD’S…SAKE…PEOPLE… sing the tune that John Stafford Smith wrote, not your own bastardized version with 4000 extraneous notes to highlight your vocal skill.

      This is my pet peeve with anthem singers… sing the proper effing notes!!!

      • DJ MC - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:55 PM

        We do it right in Baltimore; we just say “OOOOOOOOOOOOH!”

        Well…”EHOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!”

      • jeffbbf - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        Don’t stifle Bleeding Gums Murphy!

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    Also, he was not really a singer. I appreciate the “salute to the military” aspect of getting service men and women to perform at ball games, but there are so many awesome musicians out there I hate to see the songs performed poorly. There is just no need. I wouldn’t ask Placido Domingo to throw a slider on the outside corner, I wouldn’t ask Jon Lester to drive a tank. Let’s leave important jobs to the appropriate professionals.

    • fearlessleader - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:15 PM

      God, YES. My musical friends and I cringed through the entire performance, up to and including the weird spasmodic gestures at the end. Boston is filled to the gills with fantastic musicians—give one of them a shot.

      In related news, everyone’s seen this, right? It has put the biggest smile on my face (the trash-talk at the beginning is okay, but it really gets good when the music starts and the end is great): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_k8oICRBH4

      • philsieg - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:34 PM

        Thank you, fearlessleader. That made my (and my wife’s) day. I loved Seiji in Big Papi’s jersey.

  6. voteforno6 - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    Let’s not forget James Taylor starring as The Driver in Two-Lane Blacktop, with Dennis Wilson as The Mechanic. Also, the legendary Warren Oates co-starred as GTO. So, James Taylor was more than just a singer/songwriter.

    • philsieg - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      Actually, I would rather remember Sweet Baby James the actor than Sweet Baby James the insipid singer. Randy Newman once said wanting to be mellow is like wanting to be senile. That’s Talyor’s music.

      (Addendum: He actually wrote one great song and had the good sense to let George Jones record it and make a hit out of it. But then George Jones could make a hit out of just about anything.)

  7. hojo20 - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Great performance though. Saw the video on barstoolsports.com

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      Sure, if one is into parody of patriotism. Or parody of music in general.

    • Reflex - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      I suppose if one is an idiot, barstoolsports.com is a place to watch video.

  8. swmocardsfan - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    I was trying to figure out if he was going to sing the song, or rip someone’s head off. If the Cardinals would have been half as jacked up as this guy, they might have avoided that curb-stomping they got handed last night and just received a more modest butt-kicking.

  9. petey1999 - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Don’t understand your need to denigrate James Taylor. This is just from his 2nd – of over 25 – albums:

    Sweet Baby James
    James Taylor (composer)

    Lo and Behold
    James Taylor

    Sunny Skies
    James Taylor

    Steamroller
    James Taylor

    Country Road song review
    James Taylor

    Oh, Susannah
    Stephen Foster / Taj Mahal / Traditional

    Fire and Rain
    James Taylor

    Blossom
    James Taylor

    Anywhere Like Heaven
    James Taylor

    Oh Baby, Don’t You Loose Your Lip on Me
    James Taylor

    Suite for 20 G
    James Taylor

    • APBA Guy - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      I am reminded of the scene in “Animal House” when John Belushi’s Bluto comes down the stairs while a singer-songwriter is performing to the rapt attention of several toga-clad lovelies. The appropriate action is then taken by Mr. Belushi.

  10. gameover78 - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    Two of his biggest hits? I believe “Fire and Rain” is his biggest hit, which HE wrote when he was 20. Just bc you’re a singer/song writer does not mean you write 100% of the stuff you perform. He wrote around 50 songs that helped paved the way for that genre that thrives today. People like: Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Ray LaMontagne and JJ Grey have added their own spin and the evolution is eargasmic!

  11. sawxalicious - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    Being former military (army) I suspected he was not “retired.” I noticed his uniform had only two service ribbons. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I would think all service ribbons would be worn on dress uniform. Especially on a big stage. Either way, he did a good job…God bless’em!

  12. moogro - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    Like when people use “Dr.” before their name after they receive an honorary doctorate award from some college for giving a speech. Yuk!

  13. perryt200 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    [quote]and at some point we have to ask ourselves if we’ve gone overboard with this stuff.[/quote]

    Really? We can go overboard with our military, our veterans and people who have died to keep us safe; but heaven forbid you say say “stick to baseball” on purple day and you are just a cretin.

    • jlovenotjlo - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:52 PM

      There is honoring the veterans, and there is going overboard. It would also annoy me if seemingly every inning featured members of the LGBT community being addressed for their bravery, singing songs, being continuously shown in the crowd. Turning logos purple for a bit is about the opposite of overboard.
      Every time a player bats tonight, look at the 3 banners behind the batters box. Last night, it was 2/3 patriotic and one could make an argument that Budweiser, based on its commercials, could fall into this category. Speaking of commercials, try to take a ratio of the America and military themed ones during the game. Enough is enough, we get it.

    • Joe - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      “people who have died to keep us safe”

      The thank a veteran spot they do every game is even worse than having to listen to God Bless America, possibly the worst song ever inflicted upon humanity. Yeah, people are dying, but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with “keeping us safe.”

  14. ddjesus - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    For apparently being the toughest men in America, the Marines usually do come off as a whiny lot.

  15. harleyace13 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    As a Marine (once a Marine always a Marine) and a Sox fan, something didnt seem quite right when I saw it. First off, a retired Marine is one that did his 20 years and judging by his uniform- seeing the lack of ribbons and hash marks on his sleeve, it was easy to see something wasnt right.

    And Craig, you need to understand that Marines earn that right to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. There are many frauds out there of people trying to act as if they are a Marine. A true Marine will see thru the BS and call out that person and you better prepare for some “questions”.

    The (c)rapper 50 cent pulled that crap by disgracing our Uniform by wearing Dress Blues but he never earned his right to. Take it as you want but its a huge sign of disrespect to all Marines past and present.

  16. Nofoolnodrool - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    ddjesus | Oct 24, 2013, 7:40 PM EDT
    For apparently being the toughest men in America, the Marines usually do come off as a whiny lot.

    I am quite sure you say that comfortably hiding behind your keyboard. It must be great knowing cowards like yourself have the whiny lot to do your fighting. Pathetic entitled brats…grow a pair.

  17. harleyace13 - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    I wanted to add a little motto as well that describes every Marine- wanna hear it? Here it goes:

    The USMC is over 238 years of romping, stomping, hell, death and destruction. The finest fighting machine the world has ever seen. We were born in a bomb crater, our Mother was an M-16, and our Father was the Devil. Each moment that I live is an additional threat upon your life. I am a rough looking, roving soldier of the sea. I am cocky, self-centered, overbearing, and do not know the meaning of fear, for I am fear itself. I am a green amphibious monster, made of blood and guts, who arose from the sea, feasting on anti-Americans throughout the globe. Whenever it may arise, and when my time comes, I will die a glorious death on the battlefield, giving my life for Mom, the Corps, and the American Flag. We stole the eagle from the Air Force, the anchor from the Navy, and the rope from the Army. On the 7th day, while God rested, we over-ran his perimeter and stole the globe, and we’ve been running the show ever since. We live like soldiers and talk like sailors and slap the Hell out of both of them. Soldier by day, lover by night, drunkard by choice,
    MARINE BY GOD!!! OORAH!!!
    Every waking day of a U.S. Marine – Go Sox!!!

  18. ddjesus - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    Oh boy, internet tough guy here. Guess I was spot on about you people being super sensitive delicate flowers.

  19. sdelmonte - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    And why wouldn’t having a man in the uniform of a state trooper from MA be enough, in the first place? How of them were out there after the bombings last April during the mahunt? How many of them die in the line of duty?

    There is more than one way to honor America and those who serve. And that would have been better than this bit of theater.

  20. Nofoolnodrool - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    ddjesus | Oct 24, 2013, 8:08 PM EDT
    Oh boy, internet tough guy here. Guess I was spot on about you people being super sensitive delicate flowers.

    You, can’t call you sir because you lack testicles except those in your keyboard, are a good example of an elitist. But hey, you breath freely because we care…you care just about yourself…sleep on that maggot

    • Reflex - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      I will say, for the record, that I tend to spend the best evenings with those who lack testicles. I am not certain it is much of an insult, and I thank God Almighty for the existence of those without testicles.

  21. octom - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    TRUTH?? You can’t handle the truth!!

  22. bigjimatch - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    i would rather listen to Richard Simmons sing the anthem in a Marine uniform that have to listen to James Taylor sing on note.

  23. sometogethernow - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    Just going to leave this here, food for thought or not:

    “Bacevich, a West Point graduate who now writes perceptive, bristling essays and books from his perch at Boston University, puts his finger on it. ‘A masterpiece of contrived spontaneity,’ he calls one such display at Fenway Park, a Fourth of July pregame spectacle with a huge American flag draped over the left-field wall, Air Force and Navy color guards strutting about, and a Marine chorus singing the national anthem as four US Air Force F-15C Eagles scream overhead.

    “‘The sellout crowd roars its approval,’ Bacevich writes in Breach of Trust, his sixth and perhaps angriest book since he retired from the Army in the early 1990s. It’s an ‘event [that] leaves spectators feeling good about their baseball team, about their military, and not least of all about themselves—precisely as it was meant to do.’

    “They probably think veterans revel in it, too. Well, we don’t, really. When the seventh-inning stretch comes and I hear the dread ballpark public-address announcement, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and doff your hats for the singing of ‘God Bless America,” I head for the beer stand. Likewise, I feel queasy about being asked to stand and applaud wounded fellow veterans who’ve been rounded up in the stands behind home plate for their fleeting moment of appreciation before the shuttle bus takes them back to Walter Reed.”

    From http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/020_03/12184

  24. ochospantalones - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    It’s well and kosher to say you don’t understand, but this is for Holland Dozier Holland!

  25. pike573 - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    I will give a pass on the salute if he has a bad shoulder or something… Otherwise it was pretty much shite

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