Has national anthem lost its true meaning?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Sports and the national anthem are two items that are so tightly woven together that they have become part of the national fabric. At every professional and college contest, most high school and middle school events, even at the Pee Wee level, throughout the country, the anthem is proudly played or sung. Americans reflect for a minute on our nation’s accomplishments, the fact that we are very much still at war, and that every day our freedom is challenged somewhere at war.

We reflect on a history and a national attitude that is the envy of the world. Our national anthem celebrates this fact each time it is played. It doesn’t matter if it is a lone trumpet player or a famous Top 40 singer, the playing of the national anthem at a sporting event is a cause for collective celebration. We cheer at the end of the anthem’s playing not just for the performance but also for our country.


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This past week I had the chance to attend a local high school sporting event. It was a nice local event, well-attended with two teams playing at one of the purest levels of sport. These high school athletes will never play at the college level, let alone the pros. They play for the love of sport, the teamwork, and the camaraderie.

As the two teams prepared to start the contest the national anthem was played. It was a very beautiful rendition, rich and powerful. The fans stood, many singing quietly along, placing their hand over their hearts. People from vastly different backgrounds, income levels and ethnic origins had come together for this moment, stopping to remember our national heritage.

However, the reverence that was evident throughout the audience did not seem to extend to some of the players.

I stood there aghast as several players rocked on the heels, shuffled their feet, adjusted their uniforms, and looked at the ceiling instead of the flag as the anthem played. Two members were chatting like they were at Starbucks talking over a cup of coffee and a pastry. They seemed oblivious to what the national anthem meant.

This lack of respect seemed to affect a few more people in the stands then just me. I heard two sets of parents talking about these players actions. They were equally surprised.

Now many of you reading this may ask yourself, why is the News-Herald’s Boating Safety columnist getting into a lather because a couple of kids can’t stand still for a song? This is America and people have rights and freedoms and can show disrespect to the national anthem, even at high school sports events.

True, our freedom does guarantee the right to show incredible disrespect, such as burning a flag.

But we need to collectively impress on all of youth the importance of our anthem, its meaning and importance. Those youth represent our future.

As a retired military officer who spent 22 years in uniform, I’ve deployed to Asia, the Caribbean and Middle East I have seen countries that are not free, where anger, oppression and fear are part of the day to day existence. These people do not have the freedom that our national anthem celebrates.

Wrote President Calvin Coolidge, &uot;The meaning of America is not to be found in a life without toil. Freedom is not only bought with a great price; it is maintained by unremitting effort.&uot; Standing still, with sincere reverence is part of that effort everytime!