Oh Say, Can You Sing

It’s all the rage these days, mostly because it’s the playoffs. The recent display – and this is nothing new – of cross border agitation has taken form in the booing of the national anthem sung before a hockey game. Yes, I feel silly trying to figure out a way of phrasing that. It’s not like this is something never heard or seen at a hockey game. Previous years have shown the same behavior in arenas on both sides of the border, and the trend continues. Just like almost everything in life, one or two people is all it takes to ruin a perfectly mediocre tradition. Most of the people who practice the act wouldn’t do so outside a crowd. Cowards? Sure, why not.

As you may be able to tell, I’m not a huge fan of the anthem sung at the beginning of sporting events. While it’s tradition and great for some people, it does nothing for me (even less, sometimes, but we will get to that). And the singing of God Bless America should be banned at all sporting events, if not stricken from the Library of Congress (bad lyrics, bad tune, it’s the unofficial song of overdoing things).

But the anthem, just like a lot of public events, art, entertainment, or displays of patriotism, isn’t just for me. They don’t turn and look at me when they sing the anthem, and they don’t turn and sing it to the troops. They sing it towards the flag, and it’s a good thing to remember that it’s something that is not only bigger than me, but also for people other than me. Out of respect for those people, I don’t do anything but stand, take of my hat (if I have one, because you need a good reason to cover a beautiful bald head like mine), and listen to the song. And of course, face the flag. Frankly, it’s what you do.

Just a few thoughts on disrespecting the anthems:

– There are people who are going to be pissed of if fans boo the anthem. It’s nothing more than petty gamesmanship, but on the other side of the aisle, taking that too seriously is going to lead nowhere good, fast. Say something bad under your breath about the aggravating parties, something mean about their lineage, and move on.

– If the person next to you is doing it, tell them to be quiet. Do it nicely, but firmly. You shouldn’t be expected to be the ‘better person’ by letting it go. If it bugs you, say so. If the person is an ass after that, make your decisions accordingly.

– What is more disrespectful to the anthem: booing while it is being sung, or adding so much riffing, extra notes, and ego that is destroys the song. This isn’t American Idol. If you sing the song, you sing the song the way it was written, add a little flair if you must, but that’s it. More teams should have the guts to tell a singer that they are not welcomed back if the song is turned into the abomination most of these singers deliver. Anyone over the age of 16 should know better, and anyone under the age of 16 should be stopped mid song, and told they get one more shot to get it right. This is a choice the singer makes, but the rest of us have to suffer.

– No, it isn’t a classy thing to do, but classiness is abandoned all the time in the stands. Ever see someone throw a cup of beer on the ice, dousing the crowd in front of them along the way? Would you repeat most of the things you (or those around you) say at a hockey game outside the arena? Doubt it. Even the players are known for throwing the occasional barb out at the refs or opposition (read: all the time). It’s hockey, not a congressional debate.

– Booing the anthem is disrespectful to the singer. As though it’s easy to sing in front of 18,000 fans, it’s like the opening act for Led Zeppelin. It’s the thing that stands between you and the main event. There’s enough pressure on the singer, and the slightest screw up will make them overnight internet jokes. It’s not fair to them.

Those are just my thoughts. Really, only one or two people have to act like jackasses to get the finger pointed at an entire fan base. Don’t be that guy.


  1. “What is more disrespectful to the anthem: booing while it is being sung, or adding so much riffing, extra notes, and ego that is destroys the song.”

    I vote for the latter. The booing I get – though, like you, don’t agree with – but I can’t fathom why someone thinks they can make a cover version of a national anthem. It riles me up.

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