Let’s raise a glass to those who are proposing that opening day of major league baseball be declared an annual national holiday. Actually, since this is the brilliant idea of the people at Budweiser, let’s raise a can or a bottle — it doesn’t matter. What could be more all-American? Well, perhaps Budweiser could be, since it’s owned by a Belgian company now, but let’s not quibble. Officially shutting down business and the government for the start of the season is not as, uh, batty as it sounds, considering how many people unofficially take the day off already.
It’s kind of like St. Patrick’s Day, which is marked every year by the verrrry long lunch, where everyone drinks himself or herself into oblivion, rendering it impossible to work. It’s traditional, just like the St. Paddy’s parade filled with marchers, Irishmen, politicians, just about anyone — except gays, of course. What’s that? Gays are not welcome? No, they’re not, at least in New York. The question is, even when they had a stop-and-frisk law, how could you tell?
That’s what really bugged me about proposed legislation in Arizona that would have permitted restaurant and bar owners to refuse service to anyone but heterosexuals. Be grateful to Gov. Jan Brewer for taking a principled stand against intolerance. Of course, her principles might have included a lot of money, or the big bucks that might have been pulled from her state. Outsiders piled on, making it clear they were ready to take their business elsewhere. Major corporations weighed in, including Apple, Delta and American Airlines. Many Republicans also were appalled — Mitt Romney for one, and U.S. senators and GOP homeboys John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Major league baseball put out a statement criticizing the legislation, and there was even talk that the National Football League might be persuaded to pull out next year’s Super Bowl, scheduled to be played in Glendale. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see the NFL take a stand against bigotry, perhaps to balance the fact that the name of its Washington franchise is a slur.
In fact, it wouldn’t be the first time the Super Bowl was yanked out of Arizona. In 1993, after voters decided to rescind the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the NFL championship game was switched to Pasadena. The local economy lost an estimated $500 million. Arizona has a history of intolerance. Again, it took the threat of a big economic hit in addition to an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling before the state pulled back on its brutal anti-immigrant law.
In her veto statement, Gov. Brewer explained, “The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.” Actually, the consequences were intended. A group of religious extremists wanted to express their hatred toward gays. What’s really foolish about their effort is that legally, it probably wasn’t necessary. Sexual orientation is not covered under the public-accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act, and Arizona is one of the states that refuse to declare gays a protected class. So all of this was another chance for homophobes to be ugly. In a way, it’s understandable. They’re fighting a losing battle. On the very same day that Gov. Brewer vetoed their bill, one more federal judge was ruling that still another state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. And the state was Texas, not exactly the lone star of tolerance.
But it was Arizona that dominated the headlines and reminded us how hateful the politicians there can be, Perhaps we need a national holiday to honor all those public officials who waste their time and ours with their intolerant foolishness. We could call it Buffoon Day or perhaps Boycott Day, as in staying away and, more importantly, refusing to spend money in places that are ruled by regressive hatred.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.