first_imgAs we neared the gates of a California League stadium last weekend, we could hear a woman shouting over the public-address system. It seemed as if she were in pain. Or was that anger? Her caterwauling was distressing. Discordant. Finally, through the aural pollution, dimly recognizable. That was the national anthem she was butchering. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 For that reason, and others, we have a suggestion: Let’s take the national anthem out of everyday sports events. There’s the performance issue, front and center. Many (most?) high school bands cannot make it through the music without beating it beyond recognition. Most anthem singers have tin ears or inferior voices and can’t muddle their way through a correctly pitched version of the song … over the octave-and-a-half the tune requires. How many times a day in this country does that ugly scene play out? At ballparks, gymnasiums, football stadiums? A singer or musician of modest talent and enormous ego, assaulting the eardrums of innocent people with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” not fit for human consumption. center_img Many singers seem to believe the national anthem is a chance to live out their “American Idol” fantasies, and riff into vocal gymnastics that usually degenerate into vocal contortions, turning the hymn into a three-minute dirge of such exquisite wretchedness it can’t help but trigger the listener’s gag reflex. Others don’t bother to learn the lyrics. If we had $1 for every “perilous night” and “for the ramparts” we’ve heard … well, we could afford professionals do get it right. Another problem: If we feel compelled to perform the anthem before the most modest sports event, where do we get the money to pay for real singers? Answer: We don’t. We turn loose rank amateurs. It shows. It’s not just the music. What connection does the national anthem have with sports? Why do we feel compelled to pair them? Francis Scott Key was watching an 1814 naval bombardment when he wrote the lyrics and matched them to an English drinking song. Baseball hadn’t been invented. Neither had football or basketball. It seems to most of us the expression “play ball” is allowed only after “home of the brave.” But it wasn’t always so. Not until 1918 was what to become the national anthem (in 1931) played at a baseball game. And then it was at the World Series, during World War I. The anthem remained an irregular sports-event prelude till the 1940s, when it returned to baseball in time for World War II. With some cynics suggesting owners’ eagerness to stage the song was an easy display of “patriotism” – as they hoped to keep patrons from wondering, “Hey, why aren’t these ballplayers off at the front?” Since WW2, the anthem has become reflex, knee-jerk, and often performed with all the dignity that implies – while TV breaks for a batch of commercials. Other issues: Some Americans are sticklers for anthem etiquette. Hats off, stand up straight, no talking, no moving, no eating, no concession sales anywhere in the stadium … and become agitated when people around them don’t comply. Others assign political weight to the anthem, and can be troubled by appearing to endorse a federal government they disagree with … before they can enjoy boys playing ball. And why should one have anything to do with the other? In times of political upheaval, it seems only a matter of time before we have a fight in the stands, an anthem stickler and a conscientious objector getting into it. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where the anthem is routinely connected to just-another-game sports. We play the anthem everywhere and anywhere. Right down to the high schools. The idea of performing “God Save the Queen” before an English Premier League soccer match would strike the British as absurd. Ditto for the rest of Europe and planet, and their various anthems. International events? Sure. Get busy. Olympics, World Cup, all that. Fourth of July, other national holidays, you bet. Play it, Uncle Sam. During the World Series? The Super Bowl? Bring it on. With serious musicians, rehearsals and sound systems that work. We do not need the anthem before the Angels play the Blue Jays in the middle of August. We do not need it at Cal League or Citrus Belt games or Little League games. Not if it’s going to be done poorly and on the cheap, and received halfheartedly. Give the anthem a sports timeout. Make it distinct. Special. Both how it’s done, and when. Paul Oberjuerge’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Readers may contact him at paul.oberjuerge@sbsun.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img