Monday, April 13, 2015

Should the National Anthem Still Be Played at Sporting Events?

This afternoon I was listening to 95.7 The Game's Afternoon Delight hosted by John Lund with Matt Steinmetz and Dan Dibley. During the broadcast, Matt Steinmetz put forth the controversial view that the national anthem should not be played at sporting events because "no one respects it anymore" and it does not have a place in sports. To be clear, it is NOT a matter of his not liking it nor that it should not be played at all. The conversation started as a joke that the way to shave off time from sports games, but he questioned why the national anthem was always played at sporting events in particular and at no other events. He also argues that there are so many people who no longer listen to or give the reverence the song should have. Instead, people are on their phones texting, tweeting, or taking selfies. A lot of listeners weighed in on the issue, and I guess something struck a chord with me. I thought it was an interesting topic, so here is what I have to say about it.

In the matter of why sporting events begin with the national anthem or anthems, I disagree with Matt Steinmetz because sporting events are the only place in which playing the anthem makes any sense. Think about sports teams and what they represent. Every sports team is tied to a city, state, or province, and in a lot of ways are an extension of that place. It is often because of where a fan lives or was born that will dictate a lifetime of fandom. (Of course, this is not a rule, but it is a highly common scenario.) 95.7 The Game is broadcast throughout the Bay Area but is also the flagship of the Oakland Raiders and Oakland Athletics. A lot of callers who are from the East Bay identify with the Raiders and Athletics because that is where they have connections to or live. Callers from San Francisco tend to support the 49ers and Giants because that is where they have connections to or live. People identify with their city/state/province through sports and vice versa. There is an idea of tribalism in fandom. It is a way for fans to connect with a place and for that place to connect with its fans. Obviously, a lot of fans will cheer on the home team and because they do, sports teams will often try to give back or contribute to the community. Teams may hold blood drives, book drives, toy drives, and the like or hold lavish charity events to benefit a community hospital or charity.

Because these teams are connected to a place and its people, it becomes a part of the history. For example, think about the recent events concerning the Boston Marathon bombings. When that tragedy occurred, the Boston Bruins cancelled their home game and supported the Boston Stronger movement that followed. In fact, it was the home game following the bombing in which the most emotional anthem was played. The Boston Bruins paid tribute to the first responders and those who died or were injured in the bombings, and it was at that game that it wasn't just Rene Rancourt, the regular singer, who performed that night. The Boston Bruins represented, and continues to represent, the city of Boston. Singing the national anthem was a moment in which all those in attendance rose because it offered a way to unite and be proud of the country that they love. It was a time when the colors you wore to the game did not matter and be patriotic about your country. Teams do represent the cities, states, and provinces in their names and become part of their histories, so it is completely appropriate to play the national anthem. For fans, it is a way of being patriotic.

On the second part of Matt Steinmetz's argument that the national anthem is not necessary since people are not taking it seriously, I sort of agree. I have not seen anyone disrespect an anthem, American or Canadian, at a sporting event. However, if people are tending to be distracted by their phones or something, maybe it is a sign to switch it up a little bit. While I would not just cut the anthem out, I would think playing "America the Beautiful" or another patriotic tune in its place from time to time might be appropriate. Sometimes when we hear or see something often, it becomes too commonplace. Baseball, hockey, and basketball seasons have a lot of games. If you're going to games a lot, you might forget that the national anthem deserves respect because it becomes too much a part of the routine. You may even allot extra time to get a snack and walk to your seat during the anthem because you know it's part of the schedule. If teams notice that, it's time to make a switch and surprise the fans in attendance. And fans should hold other fans accountable. If you're at a game and someone is talking over the anthem or something, it is well within your duty to shush them!

I do believe that the national anthem should continue to be played at sporting events because it is appropriate to the event. It is a way to honor your city/state/province, and just remember to give it the respect it deserves!

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