Vin Scully, The Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew Breitbart, and America
While accepting the Andrew Breitbart Award for Excellence in Online Activism and Investigative Reporting at Americans For Prosperity’s annual Right Online conference last month in Las Vegas, Jon Fleischman, publisher of the influential “Flash Report” in California, told a story about an outing to Dodger Stadium with the late Breitbart.
Fleischman said at Chavez Ravine, Breitbart randomly -- and really loudly so everyone around him could hear him -- decided to say, “Jon, look, this is America ... there’s black people, and there’s Mexican people, and over there are a couple of Asian people.”
“This is America, everybody coming together to be one culture ... it’s like Dodger Stadium versus Hollywood,” Breitbart said, according to Fleischman.
Fleischman then said a huge “Hispanic guy” stood up and said, “God Bless America!,” to which Breitbart responded, “[Bleep] Yeah!”
[Bleep] Yeah, indeed.
Every Fourth of July, after first being in awe of those who risked their lives and fortune to sign a document that radically declared that man’s rights come from God (and because those rights do not come from a government or sovereign, they cannot be taken away) and the people loan power to a government to preserve those unalienable rights, I always think of Vin Scully, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and my dad.
Breitbart was right. More than any other baseball team, the Dodgers have represented the best of America, especially its ability to assimilate people from different cultures around a common creed and culture. In many cases, America has followed the Dodgers.
And the inimitable redhead from Fordham, Vin Scully, has poetically been their voice for more than a half century.
Without Jackie Robinson, there may not have been a civil rights movement. Sandy Koufax made Jews across the country proud. Fernando Valenzuela was a hero to Mexican Americans, especially those in California. Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park made it easier for Asian players to come over and play. And of course, the legions of ballplayers from the Dominican Republic -- like Pedro Guerrero, Ramon Martinez, and Adrian Beltre -- put that island on the map and, as Scully always says, proved that one can’t walk off the island.
At one point in the mid-1990s, the Dodgers actually had a United Nations starting pitching rotation of Pedro Astacio (Dominican Republic), Chan Ho Park (South Korea), Hideo Nomo (Japan), Ismael Valdez (Mexico), and Tom Candiotti (U.S.A.)
And Scully has called -- and explained -- all of it.
The greater point, though, is that all the groups these ballplayers represented ultimately identified with the Dodgers, which is why Scully unites nearly everyone in Los Angeles. Blacks and Korean grocers. Mexican and Black street gangs. Jews and WASPs. Foreigners and natives. They’ve all had a common culture passed down to them by him.
For America to work at its best and be a country that is even better than what the courageous signers of the Declaration of Independence could have imagined, it must be a country that lives up to the E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) motto and not a country that becomes so balkanized that its motto essentially becomes E Unum Pluribus (Out of one, many). It must be a country where people from all walks of life unite around a common set of values like Los Angeles' diverse population unites around Scully and the Dodgers.
And for that to happen, those values and the common culture that have always made America exceptional need to be passed down from generation to generation like baseball -- America’s pastime -- is. Like Scully has done for generations of Los Angelinos.
I owe a lot to Vin Scully, whom I consider a second father (the late Lakers announcer Chick Hearn was like a second uncle). I was born in Los Angeles, but my parents were not. When they came to the country in the 1970s, Vin Scully helped teach my dad English. My dad would take English classes after his day job, and, as a baseball fan, would have Scully on the radio the 81 times a year the Dodgers played at home.
As far as my memory goes back, Vin Scully was playing on the radio or television at home. I always suspected my dad always had Scully on because he knew Scully could articulate my dad’s love of America and baseball more clearly than he could to me in English.
I fell asleep listening to Scully as a kid. He made traffic on the 405 freeway enjoyable. He taught me America’s exceptional nature for every game he calls is like a majestic and poetic love letter to America and her exceptional history. He made me passionate about America’s history and always left me wanting to learn more the country, especially after he would tell an anecdote or story about the different cities the Dodgers were visiting.
But when I think about the unimaginable day when Scully is no longer behind the mic at Dodger Stadium, I pray that day isn’t a harbinger of a bygone era when a common culture and common values were passed down from generation to generation at all levels -- in schools, television shows, movies, neighborhoods, churches, and civic organizations.
With multiculturalism gone rampant and “the Blame America First” crowd indoctrinating children at all levels throughout many of these once hallowed institutions, I worry about a country disunited. And if that happens, it threatens the American experiment that the patriots in 1776 risked their lives for.
Ronald Reagan, who, like Scully, was a great Irish storyteller, said it best in his farewell address:
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn't get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.
But now, we're about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven't reinstitutionalized it. We've got to do a better job of getting across thatAmerica is freedom -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs production [protection].
So, we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important -- why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, 4 years ago on the 40th anniversary of D - day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who'd fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, ``we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.'' Well, let's help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let's start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.
And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
Reagan’s words ring truer and more important today. My parents -- like many from that era -- were lucky. They could trust that I would be instilled with American values and an appreciation of her exceptionalism by listening to Scully. And for many not lucky enough to have Scully on their dials, the same was true of their hometown announcers or their schools. Even television and movies could be trusted to help the next generation understand what it means to be an American.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case anymore.
I know that Scully won’t be around to help teach my future kids about what makes this country so great. And while we fight to take back Hollywood and academia from the liberal elite, who knows if that battle will even be won within in our lifetime.
It's now on us. And it'll be more on us in the future.
Reagan said “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Americans must be mindful of this and just be more vigilant and proactive in teaching future generations of Americans why the American experiment is so exceptional.
That is the only way to guarantee that we preserve what our Founding Fathers started.
God Bless America.