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One Horribly Huge Gaffe Leads to National Anthem Debate

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Poor Christina Aguilera. The ex-Disney Mouseketeer with pipes of gold committed a horribly huge gaffe during her rendition of the national anthem before last Sunday’s Super Bowl game. For the one or two of you who missed it, she forgot the words. This led to a firestorm of media mad-gabbing ranging from titters and confused looks from the sidelines to “How could she?” and excuses as to why she failed to remember the lines (marriage breaking up, strains of motherhood, poor health, et. al.).

I happened to be watching—not that I’m a football nut, but I really wanted to cheer the Cheeseheads on—and cringed during the amazingly gut-wrenching faux pas. But I’m no ordinary listener; I’m a music geek and often notice the tiniest infractions when it comes to musical performances.

Christina is to be congratulated for continuing on to the end, giving the song her all during the last few measures. Me, I might have melted into the field in embarrassment, but I’m not a performer. My son, a classically trained pianist who has reams of musical scores tucked into his brain, once lost his place during the final few measures of a recital. A recital in front of people, being taped. He paused a second or two (which I’m sure must have felt like an hour) and continued on to the end and his bow.

People, being basically flawed, tend to make mistakes with regularity. Look at Tiger Woods. Eliot Spitzer. People who streaked in public during the ’70s. Charlie Sheen. Both of Charlie Sheen’s wives. Lindsey Lohan’s theft of a necklace (along with every other wrong turn she’s ever made). Miley Cyrus smoking salvia on video. Emperor Hirohito when he decided to mess with the U.S.

Even I make mistakes. Once I left a banana bread in the oven overnight. I had a terrible cold, took some medicine, and promptly fell stone dead asleep, so unconscious I did not hear the kitchen timer go off, or the alarm clock the next morning, or my telephone later in the afternoon. By the time I turned the oven off, my apartment building was filled with the unmistakable aroma of charred brick.

When people make honest mistakes, I tend to give them a pass. But no, not Kevin Blackistone, who caused a firestorm of controversy over on AOL when he penned an article suggesting that the national anthem should be banned from sporting events.

(Okay, so no one who is anyone is on AOL. I am.)

My first impression was that the Huffington Post was kicking into overdrive now that it was taking editorial control over AOL. The indignant comments after the article stretched into the thousands, and were actually more entertaining than the original post.

Mr. Blackistone’s premise is that politics has no place at the start of sporting events, and the anthem is political. He then goes on to say that such an explosive, warlike song has no place at sporting events, where players are regularly referred to as “combatants” who are “fighting.” And then Blackistone justifies his position by alleging that most people don’t know the lyrics anyway and most attempts (the failed ones) “degrade” the status of the anthem.

I agree that it’s not the easiest song to sing. The words are somewhat archaic, and anyone who can successfully render it in the way that it was written must be a professionally trained vocalist with enormous range. Roseanne Barr massacred it, but so do 75% of the people who try it. So what?

Being a (very poor) karaoke singer myself, I say, “What the hell?” I love singing, and singers. Singing is expression, and expression doesn’t have to be perfect. (See above, the sentence regarding “flawed” humans.) I encourage people to belt out their songs, whether it be something from the Boss, or something you made up to sing to your cat. (Kitty-chin, Kitty-chin, chim-chimmery Kitty-chin.) There isn’t enough melodic expression in the world for me.

Perhaps more people would know the lyrics if more of them were exposed to them on a regular basis. “The Star Spangled Banner” is rarely heard in schools anymore (which is where I learned it, along with the Pledge of Allegiance). As for Mr. Blackistone’s assertion—that since our elected leaders don’t have to sing it, why should those attending sporting events?—I’m of the mindset that our elected leaders should sing it before the start of a legislative session. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (what was) would play a rousing rendition of it at the start of each season, causing many to weep.

As for those who want to sing it for love of country, since when did patriotism become a bad thing? I happen to like all national anthems, including the unofficial ones like “God Bless America” and “America, the Beautiful,” which was penned after the author took a trip up to the summit of Pikes Peak. I even love the Canadian national anthem, “Oh, Canada.” As productive members of a society, we should align ourselves with the love of where we live. If we don’t love it, we should move to a place that we do love.

As for Christina, I hope she had a good, stiff drink and a Valium after her performance. Someday, the memory of the embarrassment will lessen, likely after the next failed Star Spangled singer has mangled our national anthem.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.