On Saturday evening, 9/11, Fox Sports broadcast a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets in a “subway series,” a trope recalling the days when New York players like Ruth and Gehrig actually rode the subway to the ballpark.
After watching the solemn proceedings of the morning, I didn’t think I wanted to view the end of the day through the lens of Fox Sports. But it was even worse than I expected.
The event began at 7 p.m. EDT, with a too-long, World Series sort of pageant that included present and has-been politicians, Port Authority and New York City cops, firemen, sanitation workers, and even the Department of Corrections staff. There were plenty of American flags on display (badly), as well as bastard hybrids like the “Thin Blue” flag.
This was followed by a game in which Fox used every opportunity to promote itself and its role in the game, donating a million dollars to 9/11 causes and other self-serving plugs. The game itself seemed secondary, a kind of play going on in the background of commentary and interviews with Joe Torre, Mike Piazza, and other baseball luminaries, plus inane trivia such as that Anthony Rizzo’s Uncle Frank worked for the construction firm that built the first World Trade Center.
The class of the evening was a performance by Anaïs Reno, a 17-year-old New York Jazz recording artist, who sang “America the Beautiful” in the most straightforward, lovely way imaginable, without musical accompaniment. She performed both verses (which we seldom hear) and knocked it out of the park, so to speak. There was also a good story by Joe Buck about his father Jack’s moving speech and poem delivered on September 17, 2001.
But the lingering question persists: Can America ever wean itself off hype and stop “amusing ourselves to death,” as Neil Postman prophetically wrote in 1985? Does everything have to be pumped up until it’s over the top, or else a nausea-inducing combination of solemnity and mawkish sentimentality, phony patriotism, and sententious speechifying? Will it be long before there are 9/11 mattress sales? Can the PR profession do anything to stem the tide without harming itself or the free exchange of information and ideas?
BTW, speaking of empty hype, I didn’t see Rudy Giuliani the entire day, although he hosted his annual 9/11 dinner at one of the Cipriani restaurants, according to Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. At the dinner, the former America’s Mayor reportedly gave a rambling speech in which he impersonated Queen Elizabeth and berated General Mark Milley, among other things.
Rudy continues to edge toward the pit, but the Yankees snapped a seven-game losing streak, with two homers by Aaron Judge.