Though not lately, I've expended a considerable amount of time preaching that The Star Spangled Banner is not a love song. It is a piece of poetry written during a war, and from the point of view that the writer didn't know what was going on except lots of bombing, then wondering if his side had won.
I never did get many comments about it, and for that I am disappointed (Side note; I understand the paradox of not encouraging commenting on my blog yet finding the lack of commenting as silent indication that nobody agrees with me). However in surfing this afternoon, I find that I am not alone.
From Don Ohlmeyer's October column (written as ESPN's Ombudsman)...
"ESPN's 'College Football GameDay' kicks off festivities on Saturdays in the fall. It's a well produced examination of the day's key matchups, with informative features and pertinent interviews. The knowledgeable, amiable hosts dispense facts, insights and opinions live from campuses around the country, while capturing the excitement and enthusiasm that surrounds the games.
"The Oct. 17 telecast preceded the Texas-Oklahoma game and was hosted from a set on the sidelines in the Cotton Bowl. While a celebrity guest provided his predictions for the day's game, the band -- no more than 50 feet away -- was playing 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' No one on the set seemed fazed by this. But the viewers who wrote expressed anger and outrage over what they perceived to be blatant disrespect for the national anthem and a profoundly unpatriotic act. Evidently, there was no embarrassment or contrition on ESPN's part, as that night's 'SportsCenter' replayed a clip from the interview with the anthem as its musical accompaniment.
"There was a time when there was universal respect, even a reverence, for 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' It has long been standard operating procedure for sports telecasts to either present the anthem in its entirety, or take great care to show a commercial or some other prerecorded material instead. In another era it was ingrained into production teams that, when trapped by a surprise playing of the anthem, all would respectfully rise to their feet and fall silent, even during rehearsal.
"It is worth noting that U.S. Code (Title 36/Chapter3/Section 301) dictates that, during a rendition of the national anthem, 'all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.'
"Disregard for 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is becoming more common. It has happened previously on ESPN and on other networks. Viewers write about their perception of ESPN and announcer 'arrogance.' Perhaps GameDay's reaction to the anthem exemplifies some of the behavior that engenders that feeling. The implicit message the audience hears is a not-so-subtle 'the importance of what we're saying right now far outweighs your quaint patriotic custom.'
"In speaking with ESPN representatives, we learned that the anthem was played 2 minutes earlier than scheduled, catching the production team and announcers off guard. Their reaction was inaction. The 'SportsCenter' clip can only be explained as a lack of attention to detail. Said Mark Gross, ESPN's senior vice president and managing editor of studio production: 'None of this should have happened. There are no excuses. It's embarrassing, and we apologize. Now we have to make sure it never happens again.' "
I completely agree with Ohlmeyer's line "Disregard for 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is becoming more common. It almost seems that the Anthem gets in the way of the "gameday presentation" (Side note; I feel so dirty whenever I use that phrase) to the extent that the Milwaukee Brewers have their Anthem sung or played a full 13 minutes before game time... before the introduction of the sponsors, the first pitch, the line-ups, etc. And don't think for a moment that TV/radio don't have something to do with that. Again quoting Ohlmeyer, broadcasts "take great care to show a commercial or some other prerecorded material instead". Having the home team play the Anthem before the broadcast is scheduled to even begin removes that issue.
Funny thing, if this bothers people, why does it continue?