April 21, 2009
Here's why the whole disrespecting the national anthem at sporting events thing doesn't really fire me up: During the playing of the anthem, in every stadium or arena, there is someone literally using the bathroom. And they don't stop for the traditions of the song: No hand on chest, no saluting the flag ... chances are, they're probably even seated.
I think about that whenever I see a fan get the stink eye for not leaving his or her chair or not removing a hat for the anthem. Or when you hear these ridiculous stories from Yankee Stadium about fans getting ejected by cops for not paying proper respect during the playing of "God Bless America" during the game.
I don't get bent out of shape when Washington area fans scream "O!" or "Red!" during the anthem, even though it puts team ahead of country. I'll admit to giggling when a New York Rangers fan will scream "Devils suck!" during the anthem, even though it's the epitome of bad timing and decorum.
In other words: I can take the anthems or leave them. There are times when I don't understand why they're played during a particular entertainment expenditure when they're not played before, say, a movie or a play. And there are times when the overwhelming emotion of 18,000-plus fans honoring their country, and the citizens who serve, make it seem like a mandatory part of the sports experience -- on every level of competition.
Mirtle has a post this morning about Montreal Canadiens fans booing the U.S. national anthem before their Game 3 loss to the Boston Bruins, collecting outraged reactions from around the Web. At the end, he wonders if the fans' behavior "might be a case of no longer playing anthems in situations like this." It's a salient point.
Your level of outrage about this may all depend on your feelings regarding the level of disrespect at hand.
Is booing or chanting through the anthem during a "border war" series on the level of, say, burning a flag? Of course not. It's a tacky and rude fan outburst at a hockey game. You know, the place where every player's sexuality is openly questioned and every ref is a corrupt visually impaired jerk weed.
To many of the fans participating in it, booing the national anthem is no different than booing the opponent. Something tells me most of the Montreal fans aren't thinking about monuments in D.C. or American trade policy when they're jeering the song.
But I get the outrage over booing the anthem, too. For families that have seen loved ones fight in foreign wars or proudly serve their nation in uniform -- mine is one of them -- the anthem means something much more personal than it does to someone without that connection.
Judging one's patriotism has become an unfortunate parlor game in American politics for the last several years; but just like religion, no one should begrudge another's level of commitment and belief. If people are offended by the booing, they've got every right; because to them it's something much more than a complicated tune that Carl Lewis can't carry. It's symbol of patriotism that can't be tarnished, under any circumstances.
Of course, it's not just Canadian (or Canadiens) fans that have been guilty of jeering an anthem through the years. Paul Kukla reported the St. Louis Blues fans disrupted the Canadian anthem during Game 3. Whether they were booing or "Bluuuuues-ing" or Louuu-ing" for Roberto Luongo doesn't matter -- they sure as hell weren't singing along.
The bottom line is that if the anthems are going to be played during international competitions, the risk is always run that there's going to be some disrespect. And all you can do is hope that your fans have the sense not to look like total [expletives] to the rest of the world by following suit.
(Or hypocrites, as many have pointed out. Nothing like booing the U.S. anthem on the night when Christopher Higgins of Smithtown, New York scores your first goal. Idiots.)
Here is my challenge to all American fans when a Canadian team is in your building. While this can hopefully pour into next season, right now I am challenging Chicago fans (unfortunately there will be a game 5), St. Louis fans, and Boston fans (if there is a game 5 on Saturday), and every other American city that will host a Canadian team. When the Canadian National Anthem is sung, cheer as loud as you can, sing along, and make as much noise as possible in the most respectful way possible. Does this sound soft and I don't like competition? Nope, I love hockey and the NHL because of how much passion the fans have, and how classy the players are. Therefore, lets continue to keep the NHL the benchmark of conduct for all professional sports.
Indeed. So if you're going to pour a beer on an opposing fan's head and make fun of his mother before punching him in the face, please do so after the pregame songs are over.
We demand etiquette when it comes to our anthems. Unless, you know, you're in the bathroom.