Has the performing of our national anthem at ballgames outlived its usefulness?
When I was in Junior High School, my buddies and I would joke that long-time Boston sports organist John Kiley had the fastest national anthem in the league – I vaguely recall a Bob Ryan / Bud Collins-type once using that as a throw-away line in a newspaper column.
I have no idea in what musical meter Francis Scott Key “heard” his Star-Spangled lyric. Mr. Kiley pretty much gave it the beat of the bouncy, old Buddy Knox ‘50’s toe-tapper “Party Doll” – a tune with which he was quite fond of serenading the boys (well into the 70’s, it should be noted) back to their bench on the heels of a particularly impressive stretch of play.
Everyone stood for the anthem in those days, everyone but the cops (who stood at attention and saluted the arena’s flag) doffed caps as well.
There were a couple of ground rules regarding the flag. Never was it to be allowed to touch the ground, and it was never to be “dipped” to a position of deference.
But no one seemed to deem the succinct, “let’s git the game a-goin’” rendition of John Kiley an act of impropriety or disrespect – even in a country torn asunder by a war in Southeast Asia.
Back in the ‘70’s, the Broad Street Bully Philadelphia Flyers would superstitiously substitute Kate Smith’s stirring version of “God Bless America” – even have Ms. Smith perform live at the most crucial of times.
Karma > Patriotism?
As Bird and Magic were honing their skills and their rivalry, regional TV networks and increased national exposure were exploding everywhere. It wasn’t long before team and TV executives were induced to think that the time spent on such matters as player introductions and Michael White’s spin on Key could be more profitably spent on, ya know, commercial advertisement.
Profit > Patriotism?
Through the years, pro sports associations have utilized the country’s most prominent symbols when and in such a way to serve their own ends – Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, anyone?
Maybe it’s time to cut out the hypocrisy and just stop playing the damn song – holler “Play Ball!” and “git the game a -goin’.”