The NBA order got me thinking: should we play the national anthem before sporting events? I think the tradition should continue.
First of all, a bit of history. Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that became the national anthem after seeing a large group of British ships bombard a much smaller American force at Baltimores Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Despite 25 hours of bombardment, American soldiers did defended the fort and hoisted the flag.
The patriotic poem, set to music, began playing at sporting events during the 1918 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. It was around the time when American soldiers were fighting in Europe during World War I.
Slowly the tradition spread, especially after The Star-Spangled Banner was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1931. After World War II in the 1940s, the National Football League ordered the song to be played before all his matches. Soon the song was played and sung at most sporting events.
I understand that some people are opposed to the national anthem. I don’t mind if these people sit down or kneel or refuse to sing during the song. In recent years, athletes such as Colin Kaepernick and others have used the national anthem to peacefully protest issues such as the police killings of African Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
I also understand that playing the national anthem in every game may make it less special. Thousands of performances a year at everything from the Super Bowl to a high school basketball game can make the song a routine.
But sometimes the song can be exciting. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, for example, the reading of the national anthem symbolized the fight against terrorism.
But my favorite was when teenage Natalie Gilbert sang it during an NBA playoff game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks in 2003 (watch on YouTube). Natalie started the song, tripped over the lyrics, and stopped singing. She was clearly embarrassed.
But Maurice Cheeks, the head coach of the Trail Blazers, stepped forward and started singing with her. With the help of Cheekss, Natalie recovered and finished the song while the crowd sang.
At its best, that’s what the national anthem is. A little reminder that we can survive small stumbles and even big problems, but only if we work together.
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