It was hard not to giggle yesterday at church when we were asked to stand for the singing of the National Anthem before the service began. I felt like I was at the ball park. In my mind, I shouted “O!” at the end during “O say does that star-spangled banner still wave,” as if I were at an Orioles game. I half expected the priest to shout, “Play Ball!” at the end of the song. (Alas, he did not.)
Maybe I watch a little too much baseball. But it got me thinking. Why is the National Anthem so closely associated with baseball and other sporting events? And should it be?
The “Star-Spangled Banner” became a regular part of baseball during World War II. However, it was performed as early as 1897 at baseball games in Philadelphia and New York. The song became the national anthem of the United States in 1931. Since then, the National Anthem has become a part of baseball history and tradition. In fact, the first non-traditional, “pop” performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” occurred at a baseball game, when Jose Feliciano performed the anthem at Tiger Stadium before game five of the 1968 World Series.
The National Anthem and its use at sporting events are not without controversy. A few years back there was a joke going around that the last two words of the National Anthem are “Play Ball!” As a baseball fan, it would make me proud to have the national pastime officially incorporated into the national anthem. Unfortunately, not everyone would agree with me. But then again, aren’t controversy and differences of opinion what freedom is all about?
Happy 4th of July!