I’m an American, red, white and blue. My father could be Ted Williams, my grandfather John Wayne and my great-grandfather George Washington. I love this country, its history and all it stands for. But take it from a guy who attends a lot of games in person, I really dislike what has happened to our National Anthem. I’m not talking about the words, they are truly inspiring, but the singing of the Anthem itself. I think the Anthem is sung far too often and mostly by unqualified people who have no business making a mockery of this song. I can promise you that Francis Scott Key never intended for this to happen. He was not watching the Yankees and Red Sox when he penned these lyrics.
Our Anthem was written during a time of war, from the bow of a British ship, as Key, a British prisoner, watched the British bombard U. S. Fort McHenry located in Baltimore, Maryland. The United States military raised a huge American flag on September 14, 1814, to signify their victory over the bombardment. It was this vision of our flag, waving through the smoke and brimstone, in the aftermath, which inspired Key. If you know the history, then the words make sense. You see, our National Anthem represents us and all those people who came before us. It’s sung so often now that it doesn’t seem to mean anything to the public. Some people don’t stand, others fail to remove their hats, and virtually no one places their hand over their heart as we were all taught in school. Even fewer sing along, and you get the feeling that people simply dread this part of the pre-game ceremonies. Could this be why so many fans arrive late to the game? Maybe they don’t want to stand through the Anthem again. You would think that people would get used to singing the Anthem as they do “Take me out to the Ballgame” or their favorite college fight song, but they don’t. Why, because it’s never sung the same way. It’s quite a long song and very difficult to sing. Most amateurs and some pros start off singing with too high a pitch and end up with nowhere to go at the end of the song. They either run out breath, range or both. I would rather not hear it sung at all than hear it sung badly.
I think we need to hold a contest to qualify singers for the National Anthem and only sing it before championship games, July 4th and special military events. Have you ever noticed that you never hear the Anthem played or sung before a game on television or radio unless it’s a championship game like the World Series or Super Bowl? Sponsors would rather run another commercial. Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” is a great song and much easier to sing. Could it be used instead? There was a time when no songs were sung before a sporting event. Remember the old movies where the umpire points to the pitcher and hollers, “Play ball”? That was it.
The National Anthem started being sung at ballparks during the 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and Cubs at Comiskey Park. As American troops readied themselves to attack the Saint-Mihiel salient at the Western front in Europe, Game One of the Series was about to begin. When over 19,000 fans stood for the seventh-inning stretch, the band broke into the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and fans began to sing. As the song continued, more fans joined in singing and ended the song with a thunderous applause. Through their singing, they felt they were supporting our troops overseas, fighting for democracy during World War I. It’s interesting to point out that “The Star Spangled Banner” would not become our National Anthem until 1931, but as of that afternoon, it would continue to be an integral part of the game of baseball.
Remember this is the National Anthem of the United States of America, and it commands the same respect that you demand as an American. The Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence and this song are the ties that bind all Americans. Don’t take them for granted.
P.S. Shame on you if you don’t know the words.
Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.