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The National Anthem at sporting events

Andrew Sullivan has a continuing post on the national anthem. This came about after Zooey Deschanel sang it before the World Series on Sunday. Apparently some people didn't like the fact that she didn't sing it in a triumphant manner. She certainly sang it a bit differently. And like many of Andrew's readers have pointed out, I think it was a nice change of pace, and appropriate:

I am so glad that you picked up the Deschanel/National Anthem question. I just watched the video of it earlier today and was so pleased. The part of the song that we sing the most - the first stanza - is really a series of questions. This form betrays the seriousness and uncertainty present in the hymn, and I am always touched by the searching tone of it, especially the last question: "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave; O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?". It is a meditation of concern on whether or not we are going to make it, not a triumphant ode to having already done so. We would do well to recover this reflection right now! So, I say Deschanel was dead on in her approach.

Perhaps its because I'm a cynical asshole, but when people sing it in a triumphant manner, I more often than not think they are just trying to show off. That is also because I don't think it should be sang at all, not at a sporting event. This reader makes the case well:

Our knee-jerk patriots, who want not just to enforce patriotism at sporting events but even determine the tone of that patriotism, need a history lesson. Until the First World War, no one would have dreamt of playing the "Star-Spangled Banner" before a baseball game. Sports, especially professional sports, were thought to be inherently unworthy of the dignity and gravitas assigned to our national anthem. Only pro-war patriotic zeal - and the desire of baseball owners to be allowed to continue to play during the conflict - led to the now-unquestioned pairing of flag-waving and jock-sniffing that is so central to one strain of "America Fuck Yeah!" patriotism.

Its great people want to be patriotic. But why at a sporting event? What do sports have to do with patriotism? I'm there to watch a game. Its an escape from real world stuff. Its not like a game is the only time in which you have to be patriotic. And as the read above points out, much of it is faux-patriotism.

Its an opportunity for people participating in a tribal ritual to pull in another tribal ritual in order to give them a higher sense of personal meaning. Once people leave the game they don't give a shit about the wars we are fighting or getting involved in the politics that shape how great our nation will be. Its just annoying and I'd enjoy my sports experiences just a little more if I didn't have to sit through these fake political shows, even when someone like Deschanel doesn't go over the top and makes it about herself.

Though one exception I will make is if all performances of the national anthem were done by someone playing it on an electric guitar. That is usually so awesome I am willing to ignore the fact that it has no place in sports.