Friday, October 31, 2014

Time to invoke martial law on pre-game national anthems

   Two things are sure to follow every time some hapless yodeler kicks the national anthem around the block at a sporting event like Aaron Lewis did before Game 5 of the 2014 World Series: 1. the next day's sportscasts dutifully trot out a shopworn video of the top 10 botched anthems inevitably topped by Roseanne Barr's wretched rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at a San Diego Padres game in 1990, and 2. the usual suspects whine about pre-game anthems being an outdated exercise in blind jingoism.
   National anthems as a regular fixture before sporting events date back to 1918 - the final year of World War I.  In the 96 years since then, America has been on a war footing as often as not (WW2, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, First Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iraq again), so as a salute to freedom, the flag and the military it's still a relevant exercise, if not a practical or universally agreed upon one.  Sometimes, it goes beyond mere lip service and becomes comforting and even cathartic.  Ray Charles's post-911 rendition of America the Beautiful during the 2001 World Series in New York was a timely and powerful moment of healing for a psychologically shattered country.
   Which brings me to my point: since Ray's not with us anymore and couldn't be at every sporting event at once even if he were still alive, I suggest national anthems at sporting events be the exclusive domain of the military.  Surely, there are enough unit bands, choirs and accomplished vocalists within the massive American military structure and even in Canada's comparatively modest military community that pre-game anthems can be assigned to people who play it and sing it because they mean it, not because it's good publicity for their latest album release.
   Or we can just sing it ourselves.  That works, too.

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