O say can this be...the most annoying tradition in modern sports? Initiated almost 60 years ago by baseball owners wrapping themselves in the flag during World War II, this display of patriotism before every game might be tolerable if we had an anthem worthy of this great nation. Instead, we trot out this tired tune penned during the War of 1812 by Francis Scott (Off) Key, an untenable blend of bombs and bombast. Why, Francis, why did you set your impromptu, amateurish poem, Defense of Fort McHenry, to music that was shrill and incongruous? To Anacreon in Heaven was, of all things, a popular British drinking song.
Even passable renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner, be they lip-synched ( Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV) or N'Synced, don't do our athletes or our nation justice. If the idea is to honor America, two minutes of pregame silence would be a more flattering tribute.
America the Beautiful
What evokes a more pleasing image: Key's tale of bombs, rockets and a perilous fight or this ode to spacious skies, fruited plains, purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain? This is a lean, clean song that won't scare the wits out of young children and small dogs. Ray Charles's version is the gold standard. While nobody can belt it better than Ray, it's comforting to know that this melody is quite easy even for less-accomplished crooners to carry, from G to shining C.