At the time Centerfield came out, popular media culture was leading a big 50's and 60's boomer revival, as aging hippies tried to recall their glory days in the past and television shows such as 30-something were big hits. This song is part of that nostalgia, remembering what it was like to be a kid in the 50s and watch television. Bits of memories from the time such as Howdy Doody, the Dimaggio Yankee years, Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club, and so on are all mentioned in the song with typical boomer perspective - the dream and innocence died when JFK was shot, for instance, or the insistence that he never understood why anyone went into Vietnam.
Ike is Dwight Eisenhower . Yes this is in regards to the Domino Theory of Dwight Eisenhower's administration that if Vietnam fell to communism, so would the rest of Asia. It was an unrealistic assumption.
Yet there's another layer of boomer culture that he hits here. He mentions Cronkite's 6PM recitation of Vietnam statistics, talks of gathering in front of the television as a family every night. Television was the defining cultural phenomenon of the boomers. It was what shaped and informed their worldview and generation. He's being slightly facetious with the chorus, but they did believe everything they saw and heard on TV, no matter who presented it. Cronkite said the war was lost, so it was - no matter what the actual soldiers and generals on the ground said and knew. The whole nation was opposed to the Vietnam war, can't you see those huge crowds of protesters?
Four guys from England refers to the Beatles taking the world by storm and leading us into the birth of Rock and Roll. Bands popped up everywhere and there was a music explosion.
All to soon we hit the moon references the moon landing and man first walking on the moon in 1969.
But Vietnam still raged on, and a generation of young men were killed. However, corporations made a bundle from the war.
"The old man rocks among his dreams, a prisoner of the porch. The light he says at the end of the tunnel was nothing but a burglar's torch." refers to Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam. Johnson chose not to run again for the presidency in 1968, leaving VP Hubert Humphrey to take the Democratic nomination. Although frustrated by the war in Vietnam, Johnson wanted the presidency. He knew, however, that he had no chance of winning again due to the strong anti-Vietnam protest and thus decided not to seek a second term. Thus after his presidency he had nothing to do but "rock among his dreams" (as in a rocking chair), a prisoner of the porch because he primarily retired to the LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, Texas.
"The light at the end of the tunnel was nothing but a burglar's torch. That was the Watergate scandal when Nixon had people break into the opposing party's headquarters, and tried to cover it up by saying it was burglars and that was their flashlight seen. Quite a few people helped him try to cover this up, but they were all painted guilty as well. Some went to jail for short terms and once released, wrote books about the incident and became rich and famous, and now they were free of jail. He resigned in 1974 as impeachment proceedings were being brought against him. Nixon was later pardoned by his vice-president, now President Gerald Ford.
The old man was chained to an endless tomb by the death of his son in a senseless war (Vietnam) that was never officially a war but a police action. Obvious as it was the man's only son, he never recovered from the loss.
This blind trust in television and obedience to the pop culture icons was far too dominant for many boomers, it still goes on today. It must be true, Dan Rather said it. It must be accurate, it was on television. Younger generations tend to have this problem with the internet, as if writing something down makes it more valid and trustworthy. Back then, they knew it was so, because it was on TV, and seeing is believing - especially when it's entertaining.
However, news media has sought and received from a court of law, the right to LIE on television. Fox is one of the worst offenders.