I went to a basketball doubleheader on campus this afternoon, pitting the men and women of Mondoville against teams from another school in our conference. Most of the students are still gone — classes don’t resume until the 13th — so I try to go out of my way to support the kids during the breaks. I showed up as the women were warming up and picked my usual seat, just on the home side of the midcourt line, a couple of rows behind the scorer’s table.
The warmups finished, and the announcer began his customary pregame spiel, which concluded today with “Please rise for the singing of our national anBZZZTPOP!” To be fair, he didn’t say BZZZTPOP! — the PA system did, as it abruptly tapped out. Of course, we knew that the interrupted word was anthem, so we all rose.
And stood there. The announcer pushed the appropriate button on his computer to play the prerecorded version we use at basketball games. Nada. So we stood there for another moment, and then — I don’t know why — I spoke up at my full stun-a-police-dog/reach-the-back-of-the-lecture-hall volume:
“OK, everybody! One, two, three, one, two Oh-h say can you see…”
And folks joined in. A few people looked around awkwardly at first, but then everyone sang along, and we made it through. And you know what? People seemed to enjoy actually singing the anthem — they were smiling, hands over their hearts, together.
Now I’ll admit it — there were a couple of lines that I dropped an octave (which will be no surprise to friends of the Berries), specifically “And the rockets’ red glare” and “O’er the land of the free.” But as I said, we made it through. And the applause afterwards maybe felt a bit more enthusiastic than usual, because we were participants in this community ritual, rather than the passive audience of the recorded version.
I got a little embarrassed, though, when after the applause ended, the announcer said on the revived PA, “Thanks, Dr. Moore.” And then I saw this on Twitter:
Later, someone came up to me between games and thanked me as well.
I said, “All I did was get it started. I mean, we all knew the words. Heck, I sang it every day in school for years.” Really, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
As it happened, Mondoville swept the doubleheader, which makes us 2-0 when I start the national anthem. Someone asked me if I was going to do it again at our doubleheader on Wednesday. I said, “Nope — I think I’ll retire undefeated.”