Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Star Spangled Banner

In the United States, all professional and (I believe) university sporting events begin with a common occurrence.....the playing of our national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." It was written as a poem, and later put to music (to the tune of an English pub drinking song)....and awkwardly so, so the majority of folks in the US don't know how to sing it, and don't know the words even if they did. I tend to simply stand straight, remove my hat if I'm wearing one (covering your heart with your hand is not a requirement of etiquette), and look towards the flag.

The only time there is any deviation from this is when there is a game between American and Canadian ice hockey or baseball teams, and they play "O, Canada" as well (some teams play "God Bless America" instead, as per tradition).

This past Saturday night, at the home Atlanta Braves baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the "Star Spangled Banner" was sung by no less than the school chorus of the elementary school where Thing 1 goes. Thing 1 also happens to be a member of this chorus, so minutes before the game started, she and her classmates were on the perfectly manicured field, singing their best and most important performance of the year (they do a Braves game every year). Of course, as you can see by the picture, nobody was there yet, most of the crowd was still in the parking lot drinking (the chorus is the group of kids with the light pants and blue shirts near the first base dugout).

I've seen Thing 1 do some amazing thing....scoring the game winning goal in soccer, make some amazing saves at goalie, run a 10 minute mile when she was 6, but I have to say I have never been more proud. It's not an easy thing to perform in front of a large crowd, with people watching you, even if you are part of a group, but she did it, and did it well.

Enough about her though. This was the first Major League baseball game I've been to in almost 20 years, and my next entry will be about all that I saw, so stay tuned.


  1. A little Star Spangled Banner story for you: I have gone to a number of concerts over the years at the PNC Arts Center in lovely Holmdel, NJ. They always play the national anthem at the start of every concert. People respect it.

    Well, a number of years ago, Sinead O'Connor played a show at the PNC. The show was delayed because she refused to go on if the Star Spangled Banner was played first. So, what did the tools at the PNC do? They didn't play the song. They should have booted her sorry ass right out of there.

  2. That's bloody tops. Well played to Thing 1. I must admit that I quite like hearing the Anthems played before Test matches - heightens the intesity & allows my rampant nationalistic pride to obscure any of the human qualities of the opposition - well for a couple of minutes anyway!

    Congrats to Thing 1

  3. Knifeboy, I actually grew up in Monmouth County, and lived about a 10 minute drive from the Garden State Arts Center (I refuse to call it the PNC Arts Center....REFUSE). In fact, my high school graduation was there (for those not familiar, it's a giant roofed amphitheater, and seated about 10K, maybe more with lawn seating).

    So, I remember the Skinhead O'Connor fiasco. I worked in concert production in college, so I understand why they let the show go on, they would've had lawsuits out the ass if they booted her. But, I liked Frank Sinatra's (a NJ resident) reaction....backing a boycott of all of her records.

    Seeing as how she was just a whining bald chick, I think that did more to harm her album sales than the boycott.

  4. That's fantastic, Steve. I can understand how proud you must have been.

    I always try to at least mouth the words to the National Anthem (I'm old enough to remember when everyone actually sang along). At one of my son's basketball games I was feeling in unusually fine voice, so I sang it quietly. A teenage girl in front of me elbowed her friend and whispered, "She's singing," as if it were a completely foreign concept to her. And I was all, like, whatever.

  5. I don't sing because I can't sing. To save my life. The only thing more disrespectful than not standing or not removing your cap while the national anthem is being sung is trying to sing it and doing a shit job of it.

    Besides, it really is a horrible song to have to sing. It's a great poem, full if imagery, but if given the choice for national anthems, I'd pick America the Beautiful in a heartbeat. As far as singability, Canada has us beat hands down.

  6. Oh, and this reminds me of one of the greatest scenes in any sports movie. Slapshot, with Paul Newman. There's a fight BEFORE the game starts, and during the national anthem, the ref skates up to the Hanson brothers and says, "I got my eye on the three of you. You pull one thing, you're out of this game. I run a clean game here. I have any trouble here, I'll suspend ya."

    Steve Hanson, face all bashed up and bloody, turns to the ref and yells, "I'm listening to the fucking song!"

    I often want to yell that to the assholes at sporting events who talk during the anthem. Not out of uber patriotism, but just to be a dick.

  7. To be honest I’m not sure what games the UK national anthem is played at. Not at domestic football matches, I don’t think, just at internationals: I’m not sure about cricket.

    I remember feeling a mixture of amusement and sympathy watching on TV as the members of the English team are seen to be obviously mouthing the words rather than singing them: I feel they should be spared; after all they’re there as footballers, not singers. It’s not necessary to humiliate them any more than they’re about to be over the next couple of hours.

  8. I totally dig O Canada. Great tune.

  9. it too, annoys the fuck out of me if people don't shut the fuck up while the anthem is being played.

    i remember after 9/11, literally everyone would stand up and be respectful and actually SING it. now, back to normal disrespectful americans.

    you're not a braves fan, are you? i hate the rockies, but i'll go to watch them get beat. and make fun of fat people.

  10. Wow that is incredibly cool - how neat for her to have that opportunity!

    A few years ago, I sang the national anthem with my church choir at an Isotopes game. Not major league, but still pretty cool.

  11. Simon, I'm pretty sure God Save The Queen is played whenever the Great Britain scores a gold medal in the Olympics. As for Footballers, in their defense, they spend a long season beating the shit out of each other. To then have to summon the energy to play internationally is very hard.

    Kona, it's why I love going to see NHL games between a US and Canadian team, to hear that song. Fun fact....there are two versions, French and English. They are two COMPLETELY different songs, when you compare the translations. Stupid frogs.

    Snow, I'm not a Braves fan, which is why I didn't lose sleep over them losing 12-0 that night.

    Luna, it is my dream to one day see a baseball game in your fair city, just to buy merchandise that says Albuquerque Isotopes.

  12. Go thing 1!

    All joking aside, as I rarely leave comments without some tinge of humour attached to it. It is really amazing to hear of men say they are proud of their children for things like this. This was a great accomplishment for someone of her age (even though I don't recall her age, but I know the vacinity). Kudos to you for writing about this. There is a serious(er) side of Steve.

  13. Ray Charles' version of America the Beautiful is what should be the national whatever. You will notice that bands don't march to that tune. There is a reason and it has nothing to do with patriotic stuff. They Can't. Frank Key should stick to.. well nevermind, i think he's dead anyway. The tune brought tears to my eyes when i heard it played in Italy in 1995. Don't know why they played it but they did. A real town band, with the uniforms and tubas and all. Very nice.