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View Full Version : Why is the National Anthem sung before sporting events in the U.S.?


godzillatemple
06-05-2003, 10:18 AM
So anyway, there I was, watching the NASCAR prerace on the new 47" widescreen TV last weekend, when somebody began to sing the national anthem. My wife, who never watches sporting events and who is originally from China, happened to be in the room at the time. She was very surprised to hear the national anthem being sung and told me that she thought it was only performed during the olympics for whichever country won a particular gold medal. I told her that the national anthem is played before just about every sporting even in the U.S., whether it be baseball basketball, football, or car racing, and that they've been doing it as long as I can remember.

And then she asked me why it was done....

Does anybody know when and why this practice originated? Did it start out with one particular sport and then migrate to others? Are we here in the U.S. overly patriotic, or do other countries do this as well?

Regards,

Barry

Ethilrist
06-05-2003, 10:33 AM
google search on "national anthem sporting event history" found this site, (http://poppolitics.com/articles/2003-02-28-flagprotest.shtml) which had this info:It is generally accepted that its first appearance during a sporting event was the 1918 World Series. To demonstrate major league patriotism, baseball teams had the players march in formation during pre-game military drills while carrying bats on their shoulders. During the seventh-inning stretch of game one, when the band spontaneously began to play the "Star Spangled Banner," the Cubs and Red Sox players stood at attention facing the centerfield flag pole. The crowd sang along and applauded when the singing ended.

godzillatemple
06-05-2003, 10:37 AM
Great cite, thanks!

Barry

aahala
06-05-2003, 10:38 AM
Because there's no time for it during and afterward, everyone leaves.
:D

Mahaloth
06-05-2003, 10:40 AM
Personally, I wish they didn't.

I think it would mean more to people if it was only sung on special occasions.

ZipperJJ
06-05-2003, 10:42 AM
Every baseball game is a special occasion.

Nametag
06-05-2003, 10:49 AM
I'm kind of glad they play it so much; it increases the chances that people will finally get sick of it and demand a decent anthem. (America the Beautiful, anyone?)

Bruce_Daddy
06-05-2003, 10:52 AM
Originally posted by Nametag
I'm kind of glad they play it so much; it increases the chances that people will finally get sick of it and demand a decent anthem. (America the Beautiful, anyone?)

I agree. AtB would be a much better anthem.

Every NASCAR race is also a special occasion. Very special.

/hijack

RealityChuck
06-05-2003, 11:05 AM
Major league baseball may have played the national anthem from time to time (for special occasions like World Series games), but it didn't become regular practice until WWII. See this article (http://tampabay.devilrays.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/tb/history/tb_history_nations_anthem.jsp). It was part of the upswelling of patriotism during that period.

everton
06-05-2003, 11:07 AM
Originally posted by godzillatemple
Are we here in the U.S. overly patriotic, or do other countries do this as well?
An honest answer from me to the first part of that won't do anything for international relations, but we only play national anthems at international sporting events here. Apparently they used to play it at the end of the programme in the cinema years ago, and they still do at the end of the day's broadcasting on BBC radio. The version I hear always goes "God save our <click>".

Grey
06-05-2003, 11:19 AM
Happens in Canada too.

SpoilerVirgin
06-05-2003, 11:56 AM
Americans are generally fonder of patriotic displays -- the flag, the anthem, the pledge, etc. than people from other countries. This was particularly noted after 9/11, when non-Americans were surprised by the sheer quantity of patriotic symbolism in the U.S. The reasons for this were debated both in the media and on the SDMB -- I'm not sure how you would search to find the threads, but there were a number of discussions here about why Americans were so eager to put their flag on everything, while posters from European countries were unlikely to display theirs. One theory, which seems reasonable to me, is that in many countries the flag, anthem, etc. are symbols of the historically oppressive government (i.e., even if there's no king now, there was one once, and the trappings of patriotism represent him), while in the U.S., the flag represents the people and their ideals. This somewhat glurgy article that was published in a Romanian newspaper (http://snopes.com/rumors/romania.htm) shortly after 9/11 has a foreign perspective on American patriotism.

I love The Star Spangled Banner and would hate to see it replaced, even if I can't hit the high notes.

Floater
06-05-2003, 01:03 PM
Originally posted by godzillatemple
Are we here in the U.S. overly patriotic, or do other countries do this as well?

As an avid sports non-fan I don't really know, but I have always assumed national anthems are only played at international events and I was very sickened when I happened to be in the vicinity of a TV set the other day showing some football match (real football that is, when you play the ball with your feet ;)) and they played the Swedish national anthem before the game started.

SpoilerVirgin
One theory, which seems reasonable to me, is that in many countries the flag, anthem, etc. are symbols of the historically oppressive government (i.e., even if there's no king now, there was one once, and the trappings of patriotism represent him), while in the U.S., the flag represents the people and their ideals.

Sounds very unreasonable to me, at least from a European point of view. Of course I can only speak for myself, but I have a feeling that we just don't have the same feelings for our home countries as US'ers. We feel at home in it and like it, yes, but we don't put it on a pedestal. BTW, the only people in Sweden that would describe themselves as patriots and take that word in their mouths are the neonazis.

SpoilerVirgin
06-05-2003, 02:18 PM
Floater - I don't know why you find my theory unreasonable, since what you say seems to support it. Americans associate patriotism with the ideals on which our nation was founded -- justice, freedom, democracy, etc., while Europeans, as you point out, associate it with the worst types of oppression.

It's hard for me to understand why someone would be sickened by the playing of their own national anthem when the playing of my national anthem makes me feel warm and proud. But that just further answers the question posed by the O.P. -- yes, we in the U.S. are more patriotic than people of many other countries. If we want to delve any further into why this is the case, we will have to move to a different forum.

matt_mcl
06-05-2003, 04:11 PM
As was mentioned, we do it in Canada too. If a Canadian team is playing an American team, both anthems are played.

rowrrbazzle
06-05-2003, 05:06 PM
Originally posted by Nametag
I'm kind of glad they play it so much; it increases the chances that people will finally get sick of it and demand a decent anthem. (America the Beautiful, anyone?)The SSB has been sung at sporting events for decades. If people were ever going to get tired of it, that would have happened long ago.

And AtB is, well, beautiful, but it has that pesky word "God" in it. The modern interpretation of the principle of separation of church and state would exclude the song from any official recognition. You'd have to rewrite the lyrics to get it accepted, and that would be awful.

raygirvan
06-06-2003, 08:30 AM
Floater: I think it's similar in the UK. For many people here too, patriotism has right-wing connotations: from small-c conservatism via anti-Europe insularity to outright neo-Nazi connections. I'm not keen on our national anthem, either; it's a song praising the current monarch, not celebrating the nation.

everton
06-06-2003, 08:57 AM
Originally posted by SpoilerVirgin
...why Americans were so eager to put their flag on everything, while posters from European countries were unlikely to display theirs. One theory, which seems reasonable to me, is that in many countries the flag, anthem, etc. are symbols of the historically oppressive government (i.e., even if there's no king now, there was one once, and the trappings of patriotism represent him), while in the U.S., the flag represents the people and their ideals.
It’s worth remembering that the European continent is not a homogenous place with a single attitude to patriotism throughout, nor have all European countries had oppressive governments in recent memory. The tendency for extremists in European countries to use claims of “patriotism” to disguise their xenophobia is not unique to this continent either – do far-right Americans not also claim to be patriots?

As Floater and raygirvan have said, flag-waving and singing of the national anthem are associated with those sorts of views in some European countries, but in others people still do sing their national anthem and show their national colours at sporting events irrespective of their political views. France, Holland and Italy are all good examples of this.

National anthems are still not commonly associated with domestic sports in many places, though, only international ones. I suspect that if the USA seems “excessively” patriotic to European eyes it’s because of the ubiquity of patriotic displays, not because Europeans never express kinship with their fellow countrymen.

JRDelirious
06-06-2003, 09:09 AM
BTW: The Star Spangled Banner did not become the legally official National Anthem until the 1930's.

SpoilerVirgin, I believe that what Floater and raygirvan are saying is that in the Euro viewpoint nationalism is looked down upon for what they have seen it do very recently (ETA terrorism, skinhead violence, Yugoslav ethnic cleansing, Greece's infantile tantrum over the word "Macedonia"), even if there is no particular negative association in their own country. I don't think Swedes have a collective memory of living under the tyrannical thumb of Stockholm.

Yet another element in play, in many countries does have to do with the people/state disengagement, but not so much out of revulsion but out of the State (even anominally democratic one in an otherwise reasonably pleasant land) actually having the legal monopoly of the national ensigns. There are countries where use of the official flags, anthems, etc. in their own soil is reserved exclusively for State functions and it would be considered "desecration" for José Blow to just stick the flag on anything (unless, maybe, it's a national holiday, and then only in an authorized manner). In that sense, the USA is one of the most liberal nations on Earth as to what Joe Citizen can do with the flag and anthem -- in many countries a having used-car sales lot mark itself by flying a gigantic-ass national flag would mean heavy fines for simulating a government office; while any would-be imitator of Feliciano, Hendrix or Houston would be lucky to get out of the venue w/o being arrested on the spot, never mind having it become a fixture in any "greatest hits" collection.

astorian
06-06-2003, 10:16 AM
I can't offer any cites on this, I can only pass along anecdotes I've heard.

As I understand it, the national anthem only became standard at baseball games in the U.S. during World War 2. During the war, there were a fair number of people who thought baseball should be halted entirely. President Roosevelt himself, however, urged that the games continue, since they were good for morale on the homefront, and because troops overseas invariably wanted to know how their favorite teams were doing back home.

I think that baseball teams started playing the national anthem regularly during the war, as a way of making the games seem like a patriotic effort, rather than a frivolous waste of manpower and resources.

Dogface
06-06-2003, 11:04 AM
As an aside, the plod-plod-plod military band version of the Star Spangled Banner is not the way it was known before the 20th century. Earlier arrangements were far more pleasant and lilting and showed much more variety. However, due to the circumstances of war, we are left with the ugliest of all possible renderings as the "standard".

In a sense, Hendrix was bringing the song back to its roots and doing it high honor.

everton
06-06-2003, 11:27 AM
That's an interesting take on it, astorian. Sports and films were in jeopardy in the UK during WWII as well, but were retained as morale-boosters. I believe the tempo of the UK national anthem was slowed down to be played at a monarch’s funeral and the slow version stuck.

I don't know why I didn't mention Ireland in my previous post because it's a better example than any of the places I did mention. For general sports like football (soccer) and rugby, you will see plenty of flags and hear the national anthem at international games (like everywhere else), but you'll also hear patriotic songs sung by the crowd at domestic games. There is never any implication of right-wing politics attached to that, beacuse any political overtones in Irish patriotic songs are concerned with achieving independence from the British, not claims of supremacy.

However, the Gaelic Athletic Association organises specifically Irish sports such as Gaelic Football and Hurling as part of cultural festivals that include music, dancing, poetry etc. Although the sports are popular, the GAA itself is often thought of as being a reactionary and politically conservative organisation.

jesuslynch
06-06-2003, 01:12 PM
I think it's used to get everybody in the mood to get

jesuslynch
06-06-2003, 01:15 PM
:smack:

I think it's used to get everybody in the mood to get all liquored up (https://academicpursuits.us/classics/a3_011.html)

Scuba_Ben
06-06-2003, 01:27 PM
Originally posted by rowrrbazzle
And AtB is, well, beautiful, but it has that pesky word "God" in it. The modern interpretation of the principle of separation of church and state would exclude the song from any official recognition. You'd have to rewrite the lyrics to get it accepted, and that would be awful. SSB has the Name in it also, in the middle of stanza 4 (same part as "And the rockets' red glare"):

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In G-d is our trust!"

(By way of cite, I searched Google for: lyrics "Star Spangled Banner" and used the InfoPlease.com link.)

mhendo
06-06-2003, 01:50 PM
In Australia, where i'm from, the anthem is only played before international sporting events. And then the anthems of both countries are played.

At least, this was the case when i was last in Australia three years ago. Things might have changed since, but i hope not.

The thing that i really noticed upon moving to the US is not just that the anthem is played at just about every sporting event, but that it seems to be sung only by the Famous PersonTM on the field, and not by the crowd.

While other countries may not sing the anthem as often at sporting events, when they do at least it is sung by everyone, and not simply delegated to someone with a great voice. Despite the fact that i have little time for "God Save the Queen" as a national anthem, there are few more rousing spectacles in sport than being in the stands at Twickenham or Wembley when 50-100,000 Brits are belting it out at the top of their lungs. Ditto for the Australian anthem at the Football Stadium or Olympic Stadium in Sydney.

Here in the US, the crowd generally just seems to stand and listen, many with their hands over their hearts (a posture i find vaguely pathetic, but that's just me). Maybe this has something to do with the fact that The Star-Spangled Banner has a larger range between low and high notes than most other anthems, and thus is harder to sing for someone without a trained singing voice.

JXJohns
06-06-2003, 03:24 PM
Here in the US, the crowd generally just seems to stand and listen, many with their hands over their hearts (a posture i find vaguely pathetic, but that's just me).

Pathetic? It's a sign of respect plain and simple.

Placing your hand over your heart is called a "hand salute". This is a way to show respect for the flag if not in unifrom. When in uniform, people would salute the flag with the traditional hand to the brow posture.

http://chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/allhands/ah0697/jun-pg18.html

rowrrbazzle
06-06-2003, 03:31 PM
Originally posted by Scuba_Ben
SSB has the Name in it also, in the middle of stanza 4 (same part as "And the rockets' red glare")True, I had forgotten that. But how often does that verse get sung? It's easier to simply omit one verse than deal with something common to all verses.Originally posted by mhendo
Maybe this has something to do with the fact that The Star-Spangled Banner has a larger range between low and high notes than most other anthems, and thus is harder to sing for someone without a trained singing voice. Or if you're not drunk like the members of the Anacreontic Society. :D

It's also harder because it's usually played in a higher key for the pro singer. It should be played in a lower key - B flat, at least.

mhendo
06-06-2003, 04:36 PM
Originally posted by JXJohns
Pathetic? It's a sign of respect plain and simple.

Placing your hand over your heart is called a "hand salute". This is a way to show respect for the flag if not in unifrom. When in uniform, people would salute the flag with the traditional hand to the brow posture.

http://chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/allhands/ah0697/jun-pg18.html I'm fully aware of the reasons. Doesn't change my opinion.

But i won't go any further with the point, because this is GQ, not GD or the Pit. Probably shouldn't have made the observation in the first place.

elmwood
06-06-2003, 04:54 PM
In the UK, don't they sing "God Save the Queen" before movies in theatres?

mhendo
06-06-2003, 05:25 PM
Originally posted by elmwood
In the UK, don't they sing "God Save the Queen" before movies in theatres? Not at any UK movie theatre that i've ever been to.

everton
06-06-2003, 07:42 PM
Originally posted by elmwood
In the UK, don't they sing "God Save the Queen" before movies in theatres?
I thought I'd already covered that one. I've only been able to find references online to anecdotes about people who remember it being accompanied by a mass rush for the exits. But this guy (http://musicweb.uk.net/classrev/2002/Feb02/Butterworth_StandingUp.htm), for instance, mentions God Save the Queen (not King) so it must have survived into the '50s. It certainly isn't done any more, though, and probably not in my lifetime.

Also, it was played by an orchestra or from a recording of one; I don't think it was ever sung.

Walloon
06-07-2003, 02:51 AM
Originally posted by rowrrbazzle
And AtB is, well, beautiful, but it has that pesky word "God" in it. The modern interpretation of the principle of separation of church and state would exclude the song from any official recognition. Have you forgotten that every piece of U.S. currency today has "In God we trust" on it?

wooba
06-07-2003, 02:58 AM
Originally posted by Nametag
I'm kind of glad they play it so much; it increases the chances that people will finally get sick of it and demand a decent anthem. (America the Beautiful, anyone?)

I'm not an American and I personally don't think that national anthems should be played at sporting events, but I have to say that I think the US national anthem is the best one I've heard.. I'm stunned to hear you say that..

rowrrbazzle
06-07-2003, 05:57 PM
Originally posted by Walloon
Have you forgotten that every piece of U.S. currency today has "In God we trust" on it?No. It was added before the modern interpretation of the separation of church and state (which I mentioned above) was developed. If it weren't on the money already, you wouldn't be able to put it on now.

manhattan
06-07-2003, 06:30 PM
Asked and answered.

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