Thursday, April 18, 2013

Learn The Words

UntitledEvery four years or so I go off on a rant about the National Anthem. It's the Olympics that makes me do it. It's kids who have worked all their lives to do something they love as a representative of their country and yet don't learn the words to that country's song. The kids who do learn them inspire me to stand in my living room, often half clothed, and sing along. The kids who don't tarnish my memory of their achievement. I think it's that important.

Last night the Boston Bruins played the first professional sporting game in that city since Monday's bombings at the marathon. Their regular anthem singer Rene Rancourt started them off then lowered his mic to allow a crowd only rendition of our national tune. Here's the video. You know how lazy I am about videos and I've watched it. Get yourself a tissue and go on. I'll wait here.

There isn't a dip before the crowd comes in. It isn't a thready, half-hearted version carried by a few voices in each section. It doesn't speed up, everyone stays together. The requisite shouting and whistling is kept to a minimum. It's an arena full of regular people singing their fucking hearts out. If it fails to move you I'll be surprised. I fear that in a few short years we won't be able to drop in on any stadium in the country and see them pull off a crowd only sing along of our one big shared song. That will make me immeasurably sad. I think it's an enormous mistake to let it happen.

As defined by Wikipedia (I know) an anthem is, "a song (or composition) of celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a distinct group of people." Sure we're a very big group of people but that's sort of the point. To have one common thread of a melody that ties itself to each of us couldn't be more important in my eyes. Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it's got weird language. Yes, someone always starts it too high (or too low). No, we should not change it to America The Beautiful. An anthem needs to be weightier than that. It needs to be strong and steady enough to support us all when our knees start to sag.

This week we'll have had bombings in Boston, a disastrous gun legislation setback, an enormous explosion in Texas, and the anniversaries of both the Oklahoma City bombing and the end of the siege in Waco. America the Beautiful would fold under the pressure. The Star Spangled Banner lifts those boulders like a sack of rotten apples, tosses it over her shoulder, and flings it onto the compost heap.

Learn the words, you guys. There are a lot of apples to toss out these days.


  1. I had the honor of singing it at a Portland Trailblazers game and loved the experience. I love that song.

  2. Come to Baltimore and go to any professional game. We sing the heck out of it. :) and you always know when Baltimore natives are in a stadium...we belt it out.