In the continuing fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, Penn State is banning Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” from its football games this season.
What’s wrong with “Sweet Caroline”? Two things: The song was inspired by a photo of 11-year-old Caroline Kennedy and includes the refrain “Reaching out / Touching me / Touching you,” in its bridge. If we were PSU administrators, we’d want to do everything possible to avoid the spectacle of 100,000 football fans joyously singing a song about touching children, too.
Though “Sweet Caroline” was released back in 1969, its current status as a gameday hallmark only dates back to the late ’90s. As James Yolles explained in 2009:
The song was rarely heard at sporting events before 1998. That summer, former Boston Red Sox public address announcer Ed Brickley requested that the song be played during a game in honor of Caroline Fitzpatrick, the baby daughter of Billy Fitzpatrick, a former control room employee. Fans loved it, and the team started playing it when games were close in the late innings. After the chorus began with “Sweet Caroline,” fans filled in the following three beats with “ba ba ba!” and repeated the words “So good” three times after Diamond sang them.
In 2003, the Red Sox decided to play it in the middle of the eighth inning of every home game.
From there, the song and its call-and-response singalong routine spread beyond Red Sox Nation, appearing at minor league games, NFL fields and NBA stadiums.
Before Penn State, though, only one team has ever stopped playing “Sweet Caroline”: The New York Yankees, who played the ballad on opening day at their new stadium in 2009, and promptly lost to the Cleveland Indians 10-2. As sports fans might put it, “No good, no good, no good!”