Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2004 / 23 Kislev, 5765

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

The price of singing


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | As if the atmosphere in modern sports arenas were not tense enough, a Mexican woman has been fined $40 for fumbling the lyrics of her national anthem before a soccer game.


I like to think I'm a reasonably patriotic guy. I don't have any American flag decals on the bumper of my Taurus, but when I'm at a ballgame and they start playing the National Anthem, I stand up. And — and this is a considerable "and," because today's vocalists consider their performance a failure if they finish singing the anthem in under an hour and a half — during the entire time the anthem is being sung, even if it extends into next week, I refrain from sucking on the $8 beer I am cradling in one arm while juggling a fully loaded 'kraut dog and $5 bag of peanuts in the other.


Because doing otherwise would be disrespectful, in my opinion. (Also, doing otherwise might precipitate a food/beer avalanche upon the unfortunate person seated in front of me, but let's just stick with the respect angle, shall we?)


And I'll tell you another thing I don't do, at least not anymore. (Though I may start doing it again some time in the future; you don't want to box yourself in on these sorts of things.) My favorite baseball team is the Baltimore Orioles. Years ago, some Orioles fan — most likely a fan who did not subscribe to my no-beer-sucking-during-anthem rule — decided that when the singer gets to the "Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave" part, it would be cool if all Orioles fans in attendance pumped their fists in the air and shouted "OH!" in order to express their team spirit and let other people in the stadium know that Orioles fans, as a group, have the collective intelligence of pine tar.


But, after 9/11, I decided it was disrespectful to shout "OH!" during the singing of the National Anthem. (The decision was made easier by the fact that I was often the only Orioles fan attending the game. Group stupidity is not nearly as much fun when you're doing it all by yourself.)

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But, for all my concessions to patriotism and respect and not spilling my $8 beer, I still refuse to sing the National Anthem. The way I look at it, people should thank me for not singing the National Anthem. When the song is over, people in nearby seats should (gently) clap me on the shoulder and congratulate me on my self-restraint. Parents of small children should write me letters years later thanking me for not inflicting deep emotional scarring on their babies by attempting to hit the high note in the "rockets red glare" part during the Orioles/Yankees game of 1987.


Look, professional vocalists have trouble singing the National Anthem. It may be the most difficult song of all time. And yet members of the singing-impaired public such as myself — people who cannot sing in their own shower without causing dogs to howl a block away — are expected to pull this off while standing in front of 30,000 strangers while mustard runs down our shirts.


So, to the woman who was fined $40 for mangling the lyrics of the Mexican national anthem, I have this piece of advice.


Next time, just stand there with your jaws firmly clamped.


There are a lot worse things than not singing — singing being one of them.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

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