The last five days have been very difficult for myself and many of you. Monday started with me watching, via my computer, the Memorial Service at Anfield for the 24th Anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster in the morning. Only a few hours later, as you all know, bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. On Wednesday night, the fertilizer plant in Waco, Texas exploded. Last night, I listened to a Boston Police scanner describing a manhunt for the two suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing, discovering that they had shot and killed a Campus Policeman at MIT. The manhunt for one of the suspects, was completed only hours ago. Exhale. I could continue and cite other events that have taken place this week, but I feel as though I would just be repeating what you already know and reopening the wound.
Before I start going into a tirade, I’d like to reiterate that my sincere thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the terrible tragedies in the last week; not just those that I have mentioned, but everywhere in the world.
These events in the last week have enabled Americans like myself to see both the best and worst of human behavior. While we can clearly see that there are people who are hell-bent on disrupting our lives and ruining all that we hold dear, we also see that there are people who can stare mass hysteria, chaos and terrorism right in the eyes and say “you cannot break our spirit.” The first responders in Waco and Boston, as well as all those who acted in the aftermath of the tragedies, have reminded us that human nature is inherently good.
The last week has put things in perspective for myself, and I’m really upset about it. I feel extremely immature for needing events like this to put my life into perspective. For years, my life has revolved around sports. As a fan of numerous sports and leagues, my schedule has revolved around when my favorite teams are playing and what time the big game is on TV, followed by my schoolwork. I’ve always had political beliefs and a strong grip on the following of the news cycle, but I’ve never really put events outside of the pro sports world above the news cycle. I feel as though I need to live in my own little bubble from time to time. It makes life a lot easier for me. I don’t understand why these events have shaken me so much, but I’m hopeful that I can become a better person because of them.
One of the few things that has brought a smile to my face in the last week is when I watched the Sabres-Bruins game on Wednesday night, before the Waco Explosion happened. I needed to see it because I felt as though watching it would encourage me to embrace normalcy and return to my usual life cycle. Being able to see Boston get back to normalcy should’ve done the trick. Watching Rene Rancourt let the Boston fans sing the National Anthem brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things, and it reminded me of a game I attended as a child 12 years ago.
When I was 8, my Dad took me to a Devils game when they were playing Washington. The date was December 8, 2001 (do not ask me how I remember this), less than 3 months after 9/11, and we were in the upper deck at Continental Airlines Arena on a Saturday afternoon with the building half-full. We stood for the National Anthem. Continental used to play this recording of the National Anthem for its sporting events, and, with the building in the midst of a gradual decline, the recording on that day blasted out the first two seconds and then stopped, completely broken. A few fans in the building were singing it from the beginning, and didn’t stop after the recording crapped out. Slowly but surely, the whole building started singing it, and it got louder and louder until, eventually, the fans were screaming it. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced at a sporting event, and it is something I will never forget.
As I watched those fans in Boston sing the National Anthem, I cried and smiled. It reminded me, for a split second, of the joy I got from singing the Anthem on that day. It makes me feel as though we need to let the fans sing the anthem more often at sporting events in this country. It’s not because of the national pride you get from it or how it makes us feel a sense of unity, but because it’s the right thing to do.
One of the many things I’ve been saying for years is that the National Anthem is being disrespected in this country and has been disrespected for far too long. I was at the Final Four last weekend. One of the things that I remember from the Championship Game was that fans were pulling their phones out during the National Anthem, talking to the people beside them and simply not caring. Since when did this become acceptable?
What’s worse is that the anthem is being disrespected by those who are given the “honor” to sing it; I was at a Washington Wizards game a few years ago where the woman singing it took four or five minutes to get through the whole thing. I got upset because it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen like that, and it has happened far too often. If any other country had their national anthem treated the way that we treat ours, the people disrespecting it would be arrested and executed.
Fan groups at games don’t give proper respect to the Anthem either. I was at the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season in Columbus. I specifically remember NC State fans shouting “Wolfpack!” over “brave” in the last line of the song. Red Bulls fans love shouting “RED” when the word comes up during the line “and the rockets red glare.” Baltimore fans, for some reason, love to shout “OH” for the first word of the line “Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave…” Anybody singing the song from the beginning wouldn’t do that because it wouldn’t fit and it would be blatantly disrespectful.
If fans sang the National Anthem more often, I believe we would treat it better than how it is currently treated in this country. We would sing it with pride and reverence, the way that it is intended to be sung. Just look at how a Vancouver Canucks Crowd sings “Oh Canada,” or just watch one game involving the United States Men’s National Team. When the anthem comes on before a USMNT match, the fans and players sing it with respect. There’s no designated singer. They just play the song and the country’s players, coaches and fans sing it as loud as they possibly can. Astonishingly, they’re able to sing it in harmony without any problems, and the song is shown the proper respect that it deserves.
If there’s one thing that being a fan of football has taught me, it’s that singing is one of the few things humans can and do use to express their emotions accurately and effectively. If fans in this country were to sing our National Anthem more often, I guarantee you that it would be sung with more passion, emotion and respect than any Hollywood singer you could possibly roll out onto the field or ice with a microphone. It’s not gonna solve all our problems, nor will it make us better people, but it’ll make us feel better. I highly doubt that this will happen in the future, but I hope it does.
Follow Greg Visone on Twitter @njny