The furor over the Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem has sparked a debate about whether people should “disrespect” the flag at sporting events.
Kaepernick is trying to call attention to racial inequities in the United States, and his demonstration has been duplicated by other athletes in the NFL and in different sports.
There has been a predictable outcry over his actions. Some people say he is disrespecting America. Others say the flag is a symbol of his right to demonstrate. The First Amendment is cited frequently. I, however, have another issue with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which was adopted as the country’s national anthem in 1931.
Why do we even have to sing the national anthem before sporting events?
We don’t sing it before plays or movies or concerts or operas or Christmas sales at Walmart or Rubik’s Cube tournaments or other places where crowds gather for spectating and enjoyment.
When I was a sportswriter in a press box, we always had an over-under pool on the length of the anthem. The longest I ever heard was sung by Conway Twitty at a fight in Las Vegas, and it clocked in at over one-minute, 20 seconds. He forgot some of the words and had to start over, though, so I’m not sure that counts.
Whatever the moment is, and whoever is singing it – Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Roseanne Barr or your next door neighbor’s kid – the whole thing doesn’t make any sense.
Here are seven reasons to stop singing the national anthem at sporting events:
1. Nobody really cares
Take a look around the next time you are at a game. You aren’t going to see any people with their eyes closed in reverence. People have a beer in one hand and bratwurst in the other and a bag of peanuts tucked under their arm. Or they are on their cell phone.
2. It’s not really about patriotism
There is nothing about singing the anthem at a game that testifies to your patriotism. Most people are just waiting for the 88 seconds or so to pass so that they can shout “Play Ball,” or “Drop the puck.” There is no need pretend that we are pledging our allegiance to America at a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
And if they stopped performing it before sporting events, do you think people wouldn’t support our troops as much as they do?
3. The song has been played and sung so often that it has lost all its meaning
It’s kind of like Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” that served as the obnoxious theme song of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. It suffers from over-saturation.
4. It’s virtually impossible to sing along
It’s a hard song. This song stretches over an octave and a half. Think of all the times you’ve heard some kid from some city stand shakily at center court and absolutely fall flat trying to get both low enough and high enough. And none of the spectators can sing along. Plus, if you’ve ever heard a recording played through some bad sound system, you realize how silly this whole thing is.
5. We are the only country in the world that does it
We are the only country in the world that does it. Watch a major soccer match in England, and you don’t hear “God Save the Queen.” If national teams are playing each other, then you hear the anthem of both teams. But as an ordinary occurrence, we are the only ones who do it all the time.
6. It’s just a game
This is a game, not an invasion of Guadalcanal or even Grenada. If the national anthem were to be placed into a category, the theme would be “war hymns,” like “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “Sail On, O Ship of State.” A defensive end may say it was a war out there after a game, but he doesn’t really mean it literally.
7. TV doesn’t care
Television doesn’t care unless it’s a Super Bowl or World Series. Watch television this Sunday. Not a single NFL game will have the anthem televised. The networks must know something.