I have a grand total of zero magnetic ribbons on my car, which likely means I am not a good American. I am a sports fan though, and therefore I am exposed to numerous interpretations and renditions of our national anthem. Some good, most bad. I have come to a conclusion. It may sound mean, it may sound sexist, but I am sick of falsetto chicks and ball-less, whimpery R&B men singing the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events.
Growing up in Chicago’s suburbs and being a lifelong Cubs fan, when I think national anthem, I think of Wayne Messmer. Wayne is the public address announcer for the Cubs for 10 seasons and he sings the anthem (sometimes accompanied by his wife Kathy) before games that the Cubs have not contracted out to morons like Kelly Pickler or that hipster douchebag with the acoustic guitar they get once or twice every season. Messmer’s anthem is dramatic and powerful. His booming voice does not need amplification…well…actually, it does occasionally. Back in 1991, during the first Gulf War, Messmer sang at the NHL All Star Game at the old Chicago stadium.
I am far from the ravenous, flag-waving patriot. I do not particularly care for our national anthem (O Canada is far superior), and although I do wish our troops and veterans well, I am rather critical about the wars this country has engaged in during my lifetime…but the fact of the matter is…the above video is pretty amazing and even somewhat awe inspiring…and to me…that is what the anthem is supposed to do before a game. It is supposed to mean something and supposed to be energizing and and exciting for fans and players alike.
You need a deep voice to do that. A tenor or better. Think chest pounding…not glass shattering. Messmer does it, and a man named Patrick Blackwell does it even better. Blackwell is a bass-baritone with the Chicago Lyric Opera and sings the anthem at Blackhawks games. Unfortunately, the video I found of him doing the anthem does not do his amazing voice justice, and it cuts out at the most crucial part (he holds “brave” for about 30 minutes). Hopefully, though, it will at least convey to you the importance and effect of a big voice.
See what I mean? Even the anemic United Cetner crowd at a Blackhawks game can get into an anthem like that, and yet more and more often (and at bigger events, I might add), the quality of the singing of our national anthem is declining. More and more we are seeing young girls with high voices or marginally talented artists like Sheryl Crow or Billy Joel doing bad renditions of the anthem that make you sleepy before an event. Fuck that. I am sick of that.
As I mentioned, O Canada is a much better anthem than the Star Spangled Banner. It is short, sweet and at NHL games, the fans like to sing along, which is a pretty impressive and somewhat intimidating sight.
Things have not always been peachy when it comes to Canadian-U.S. Anthem relations, though. Classless fans in Montreal, San Jose, New York, Vancouver and other cities have booed the opposing country’s national anthem on occasion, which prompted Boston Bruins fans to step up and give a standing ovation during the singing of O Canada in October 2006, not long after Canadiens fans booed the crap out of the Star Spangled Banner.
The singing of the national anthems before the game is not the most important thing in the world, but I do think it is important enough to warrant some respect from the fans, and proper treatment from those who are in charge. I beg the promotions and public relations people throughout professional sports to leave the sopranos and the pianos and acoustic guitars and celebrity renditions for the minor leagues. Get yourself a big fat guy and do the anthem right.