As the final notes of “God Bless America” rang out on a saxophone at last night’s Texas Rangers game, fans began to chant “USA,” hoping to show signs of unity and healing. Eventually, the entire stadium joined in, demonstrating a rare moment where people of all backgrounds and all fanbases joined together as one.
America has an unfortunate history of tragedy at home, but a more hopeful history of healing through sports. After the events of 9/11, baseball became a “unifying moment in a time of crisis.” As the Yankees marched through the postseason that year, the city of New York came together.
After the Boston Bombing in 2013, the Red Sox embraced #BostonStrong as an ideal, and brought it wherever they went. The team participated in community outreaches, healed through a collective love of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and player David Ortiz even said “This is our (expletive) city!”
Unity through sports is not unique to America, seen through South Africa in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Told in the film “Invictus,” South Africa won the World Cup just a year after the end of Apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela. Rugby did not fix the nation’s problems, but it united the nation in a single pursuit.
In any culture and in any society, one constant is sports. There is something about joining together with complete and total strangers and rooting together for a single goal. This common interest crosses boundaries of race, class, occupation. A common support of a single team can build bonds just as quickly as support of rival teams causes strife. Like it or not, sports are here, and fans are passionate.
The only Dallas-area major sports team active right now is the Texas Rangers, and they were in the difficult spot of playing a game in a town which desperately needs healing. Injustices had occurred across America as well as in the hometown. And this article is not about politics, but make no mistake, these were all injustices. The shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana was unjust. The shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota was unjust. And the mass shooting of police officers in Dallas was unjust.
In the face of injustice and an attack on their home, last night’s Texas Rangers game at Globe Life Park in Arlington at least started some form of healing. Earlier in the day, Rangers minor-leaguer shared a story on Instagram of an experience he had months ago with current-Ranger Nomar Mazara.
While walking down the street, Patrick Zamarripa, one of the police officers killed in the Dallas shootings, had recognized Gallo and Mazara and requested a picture.
“He was an avid Rangers fan. But more importantly a great person, and family man,” said Gallo.
Before tonight’s game began, a two-jet flyover and a moment of silence honored Sterling, Castile, and those fallen in Dallas. With a somber, quieter mood than normal, the game begins.
As the game continues, the fans start to return to what some would call “normal.” They cuss at the umpire, cheer for all fly balls hit to mid-to-deep outfield, and boo a pitcher who considers a pickoff move. They even do the wave*. As runs score, fans who have never met high-five and share opinions on where the Rangers will go this season.
The lead changes hands multiple times throughout the game, but the final lead change comes in the bottom of the 6th inning. Shortstop Elvis Andrus triples to score Outfielder Nomar Mazara, and then scores the eventual game-winning run off of a sacrifice fly by catcher Bobby Wilson.
When the game reaches the seventh inning, fans rise for the singing of “God Bless America.” But today, it is played on a saxophone and the fans are left to sing the words. Upon the completion of the song, most of the audience is singing along, united as both fans, citizens of Dallas, and Americans. They start chanting “USA!” repeatedly until they sing again, this time “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
The rest of the game flows mostly smooth for Texas, and they win the game with a score of 6-5. Audio man Chuck Morgan plays victory song “I Like Texas,” by Pat Green and fans celebrate a much-needed win. Elvis Andrus is named player of the game, and speaks in support of the city in his post-game interview.
“Texas is really strong, the same way as Dallas,” said Andrus.
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*this is not in any way an endorsement of the wave. But hey, Dallas had a bad day.