Is it time to retire the national anthem at games? (Opinion)
What started off as an attempt to unify the country behind the war effort and gain positive publicity for the games has now become a moment for division among those both standing and kneeling while the national anthem played. The question needs to be asked: Is it time to retire the national anthem before games?
To give you some background, according to vox.com, "The Star Spangled Banner is a poem written by Frances Scott Key the morning after the battle of Ft. Henry in Baltimore, set to an old English drinking song. It became America's unofficial national anthem in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson ordered its used at military and national ceremonies. It became the OFFICIAL National Anthem in 1931."
Now for the sports connection, when baseball sees the song as positive PR. As Mental Floss's Matt Soniak explains:
"After America's entrance into World War I, Major League Baseball games often featured patriotic rituals, such as players marching in formation during pregame military drills and bands playing patriotic songs. During the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the 1918 World Series, the band erupted into 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' The Cubs and Red Sox players faced the centerfield flag pole and stood at attention. The crowd, already on their feet, began to sing along and applauded at the end of the song."
He continued, "During World War II, baseball games again became venues for large-scale displays of patriotism, and technological advances in public address systems allowed songs to be played without a band. 'The Star-Spangled Banner' was played before games throughout the course of the war, and by the time the war was over, the pregame singing of the national anthem had become cemented as a baseball ritual, after which it spread to other sports."
Clearly the national anthem is not having the same effect on the fans. It singing has become a place where players and fans can give their true opinions about how they feel about what's going on in the country. Those feelings create division among players on the field as well as those watching the games. That division has spread to families and friends. This is the complete opposite of what playing the song before games as supposed to accomplish. Instead of bringing the crowd together, it's actually driving them apart.
In New Jersey, high school teams can now choose their posture when the song is played, which will create a bullying situation as well as peer pressure. The NFL is so patriotic about the national anthem that both before and after players kneeling became a story, they went into commercial while it played. They will show it this year because not only will we have the national anthem, but a black national anthem as well. So much for uniting.
Other than each side digging their heels and knees in while it's being played, what effect is the song really having on the fans? Now that the kneeling has started, will there ever come a time when everyone will want to stand again?
There are many gatherings in this country such as concerts or theater shows that don't start with the national anthem. You know how you feel about the country. Do you really need a song to remind you? How about instead of worrying about whether the national anthem is being played before games we start focusing together on why people feel the way they do when they hear it? Then do something about it together. Think what we could learn about each other.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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