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Sports Events and the Anthem: Unnecessary and Divisive

August 28th, 2016 · 2 Comments · Baseball, Basketball, English Premier League, Football

It’s time for Americans to do themselves a favor:

Take the national anthem out of U.S. sports events.

We have plenty of good reasons to do so, and as soon as possible.

To wit:

–The national anthem can be divisive, as we discovered anew in the ongoing Colin Kaepernick brouhaha. He sat through the national anthem before he and the San Francisco 49ers played the Green Bay Packers last week, and things are getting ugly in the social-media world. We wouldn’t be getting angry over this (on either side of the issue) if we didn’t persist in playing/singing the anthem before seemingly every sports event from high school on up.

–The anthem is often poorly performed, which is no credit to anyone or anything. Bad voices struggling with an octave-and-a-half tune. Botched lyrics. Who among us has not cringed while someone made a  hash out of the anthem at a sports event?

–The anthem too often is turned into a “my chance at stardom” moment. Many soloists riff on the tune, jump half-octaves, shriek and bellow the words. No anthem? No would-be star yelling at us.

–Anthem etiquette tends to morph, often with the result that it becomes more ornate — which then invariably leaves some in the ballpark or arena unhappy with his neighbor’s behavior. A hat not taken off. The hand-over-heart issue. (Required? Not required?) Can a person continue a conversation during the anthem? Is it permissible to sip a bit of beer during the anthem? Eat a peanut? You say “yes”. I say “maybe”. The guy over there says “absolutely not” and is deeply offended at his neighbor.

–Most of the world seems to do just fine without singing their national anthem ahead of sports event. The English Premier (soccer) League is the world’s most popular competition, and the teams there manage to get through season after season without asking God to save the queen — or anyone else.

–It is not as if the anthem has been sung forever before major American sports events. The Star-Spangled Banner wasn’t even the official anthem until 1931, and historians seem to believe that the anthem was rarely played at sports events before the U.S. entry into World War II, in late 1941. Before that? Somebody shouted “play ball!” and off they went.

This is a particularly divisive period in American history. Many of us violently disagree with the beliefs of others, who violently disagree with us.

Sports events are supposed to be fun for everyone, not occasions for a sort of patriotic status check — with many getting failing grades — or a chance to make a political statement.

We do not need the anthem before games. Big games, championship games, Fourth of July events. Sure. When playing “national team” games against other countries, yes.

But school events, regular-season professional events … no, we can get along without it and soon would be quite content to get down to the game, I am convinced.

The anthem has long since reached the point where it is as often annoying as it is uplifting.

We would not be talking about Colin Kaepernick if this modern insistence on the anthem were not so pervasive.

We can and should do without it.


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gene // Aug 30, 2016 at 5:31 PM


  • 2 George Alfano // Aug 31, 2016 at 9:37 PM

    First of all, change the national anthem to “America the Beautiful”.

    I can see playing it before games on national holidays, such as 4th of July, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day and maybe a couple of others. I think you do have to pay respect on those days because we need to remember our history.

    That said, when you play the National Anthem before every game it loses any meaning.

    You don’t put your hand over your heart when the National Anthem is being played. That is for the Pledge of Allegiance (or, as my daughter called it when she was in preschool, The Pledge of Egypt).

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