Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spangled Banner

Yet again, our proud regional tradition is under attack.  Mike Wise of the Washington Post suggests that Baltimore fans, by emphasizing a single word in a three minute long anthem, are "tainting a moment meant to unite Americans."

Really, Mike?

This is a song that we have garnered with any number of celebrity idiosyncrasies and often speed up or slow down to time with over-flying jet planes.  It does not have the solemnity that is common with anthems of countries like Canada or the thundering power of those from the caucuses.  Rather, it was modified from a song used in a "men's social club"and is intended to be produced with gusto and pride.  To treat it as if it were some church hymn is not only rewriting history, but also restraining a tradition that has taken any number of forms depending on situation and circumstance, all of which make it a perfect song for America to share and one that has lasted generations as OUR national anthem.

When I was little, I wasn't much of a sports fan.  During a time when most of my friends were obsessed over George Brett, Cal Ripken, and Ken Griffey Jr., I was a little detached.  Baseball was part of the atmospherics of my youth, but never a central focus.  Nonetheless, my Dad had Sunday tickets to the Orioles.  As such, I spent a lot of my Sunday's baking in the left field club seats.

For as long as I can remember, the National Anthem was something I got excited about.  More importantly, it felt like the entire stadium was excited about it, too.  I've been to plenty of games in plenty of stadiums across this Country, but no one "gets" the National Anthem like Baltimore.  People stop walking to their seats.  They take off their caps.  And they sing it.  They're not just witnesses to the anthem.  They SING the anthem.  Conscientious of every word and the subject of what is being described.

The "Oh" is not some exclusionary focus.  It is an exclamation mark.  A climax.  "OH...say does that star spangled banner yet wave."  In Baltimore, we smile when we sing the National Anthem.  We cheer when its over.  We're present in the moment.

So pardon me, Mr. Wise, if I don't take your lecture with sedate shame.  Our National Anthem is not a measure of our patriotism.  It is a trumpet of our pride.  And with that pride is a little bump from a town on the Chesapeake that just so happened to write it.