OH, SAY CAN YOU STAND OUR STAR-MANGLED BANNER?
August 3, 2006
Author: DOUG CAMPOS-OUTCALT, Special for The Republic
Quite a controversy erupted recently over a recording of the Star-Spangled
Banner being sung in Spanish.
This attempt by undocumented immigrants to be bicultural and share in some good
old-fashioned American patriotism backfired. I am not sure I understand what all
the fuss was about though. At least someone was singing the darn thing.
Let's face it, our national anthem is about as hard to sing as anyone would dare
make it. The words are hard to remember and the high-pitched notes at the end
nearly impossible for the average person to reach gracefully. Even when it's
played correctly at a game, few fans sing along.
God Bless America is much easier and enjoyable to sing and is sung by the crowd
more enthusiastically, as is Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Either of these would
make a better national anthem than the one we have.
One observation I made while watching the soccer World Cup matches was that just
about every other national anthem in the world is easier to sing than ours.
To make matters worse, in the past few years, throughout the country, the
pre-sports event national anthem has become all too often a celebrity solo.
The singer is allowed to take "artistic license" with the melody and frequently
makes it unrecognizable, and totally impossible to sing along with, even for
those who would like to try.
Some of these efforts are laughable, others excruciatingly painful. It now
occurs at all types of games, at all levels of competition, even at the local
high schools where it has become an American Idol wannabe solo. I have begun to
call it the Star-Mangled Banner.
This melodic creativity can become an agonizing endurance test for the rest of
us, taking at least twice as long as it should. Instead of yelling "Play ball!"
we have to wait while hoping there are not any embarrassing mistakes, although I
am not sure we would recognize them if there were any. I try to time my pregame
arrival to avoid the whole thing.
Please, just give us a good old-fashioned marching band, or a recording of one,
playing straight through the national anthem at a steady pace. That way those
who are game enough to try to sing can do it together, quickly.
So, ask yourself which is worse: singing the national anthem in another language
but at least with the melody recognizable, or having it mutilated beyond
recognition in English? Seems like a tossup.
To be fair, if we object to one, we ought to object to both and return the
Star-Spangled Banner to its original, hard-to-sing self.
Doug Campos-Outcalt is an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and a faculty member
of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Ahwatukee Republic
Column: COMMUNITY COLUMNIST