- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

The joint will be jumpin’ this season at Nationals Park, but not necessarily because of anything Manny Acta’s troops do on the field.

Whether the Nationals win or lose, they certainly won’t do it quietly. Music will be blaring from the shiny new loudspeakers much of the time, and those of us who have been around awhile can only hope that heavy metal and rap tunes won’t bombard the aural scene.

Not to mention the eardrums.

Through a mercifully silent press release yesterday, the Nats announced a promotion that will enable fans to vote for their favorite songs, or snatches thereof, on a list compiled by club officials who presumably are over the age of 15.

Now, I have nothing against music being played at ballparks, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is a tradition at many venues. John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” is a fixture at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. Plus, all those heartfelt renditions of “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” since September 11 tend to elevate our national pride and raise the hairs on the back of our necks.

Yet we should remember — and this means you, Mark Lerner and Stan Kasten — that baseball is a delicately unfolding sport that permits spectators to simply enjoy being at a ballgame and reveling in its centuries-old ambience.

I know games can drag, especially when batters step out and pitchers stroll around the mound after every delivery, and managers seem to spend more time on the phone (to the bullpen) than teenagers. But the leisurely pace allows plenty of time for conversation and unwinding, which is part of baseball’s charm. Can you imagine trying to discuss world affairs or exchange gossip in the middle of, say, a ripsnorting NBA game?

At too many other stadiums and arenas, pounding music often threatens to overwhelm athletic combat, which after all is supposed to be the reason we go to games. And how about all those basketball games where, during introductions of the home team’s starting lineup, the house lights dim, spotlights glare, screeching music threatens to deafen us and P.A. announcers on amphetamines infuse the simplest name with a whole host of extra syllables.


Imagine if somebody had tried that a century or so ago with surly Ty Cobb. The old Georgia Peachpit would have planted his shoes and spikes upside somebody’s noggin before the echoes died down.

Getting back to the Nats, I don’t recognize most of the tunes on their list, but that’s probably my bad, because my sense of musical awareness was left for dead somewhere in the 1950s.

I don’t really expect to hear my favorite baseball-related number, Frank Sinatra’s “There Used to Be a Ballpark,” although the Yankees still play the “Theme From New York, New York” after victories. But what would be wrong with golden oldies like “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” by Terry Cashman, “Centerfield” by John Fogerty or the poignant “Right Field” by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary?

Instead the Nats will allow fans to vote online (nationals.com/youmakethecall) on the likes of “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation, “Because We Can” by Fatboy Slim and “Woo Hoo” by some group called Blur.

Say what?

I’ll give the ballclub credit for including “Ya Gotta Have Heart” from the musical “Damn Yankees” and “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. (I assume the latter will be played whenever Acta summons unpredictable Chad Cordero from the bullpen.) But how many fans under 25 ever heard of these chestnuts?

One of the numbers nominated to be played when the Nats win a game is “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha and the Vandelas. I have no problem with that, but shouldn’t it be saved for that glorious night when Our Guys become the first Washington team in 75-plus years to win a pennant?

Otherwise, for those of us old enough to remember both versions of the Senators, a new piece of equipment might be required this season at Nationals Park.

Bring seat cushion, sunglasses, perhaps a baseball glove if you still like to pursue foul balls.

And, oh yes, earplugs.

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