At events, the national anthem still matters

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In Maryland, where I grew up, educators and others made a big deal out of the national anthem.


It should be a big deal, not only in Maryland, home to Francis Scott Key and the place where the “Star-Spangled Banner” was written, along with so many other historical events. It should also be a big deal at sporting events in New Mexico, although some folks do not seem to think so.
Every time I hear the national anthem played, I think of the women and men who died or were wounded in the service of this country. I would hope most Americans would have the same experience when hearing the song, but for many of the attendees at the sporting events I attend, there seem to be at least a few people making noise or, in some way, not standing at attention.
Granted, some of those not paying attention are very small children, and are kinda-sorta inside the venue at the time. Parents and other adults should not only set the example by following protocol, such as removing headgear and placing their hand over their heart, but also by encouraging the next generation to do the same.
My research on the “correct” protocol garnered varied results, especially regarding the hand on the heart. Basically, everyone present should stand at attention, not distract others, and make an effort to reflect on what the anthem (or Pledge of Allegiance) means and why we have it at public events.
The hand-over-heart concept took on new meaning for me after a Facebook chat with a high school classmate. He served in Afghanistan, and I asked if he and members of his unit placed their hands over their hearts for the anthem.
“Yeah, except for one guy,” he told me. “His right arm was torn off in an explosion, so he uses his left hand.”
If members of the military are willing to make a huge sacrifice for us, even if you disagree with our leaders or some of the atrocities committed in the forming of this nation, the anthem, to me, is about honoring those who made a sacrifice so that we can have ball games and other freedoms.
The swaying back and forth by teams is a bit distracting, which sort of misses the point of standing at attention, but if it keeps student-athletes focused for the two- to three-minute duration of the song, I can live with it.
What I cannot live with is children running around during the anthem or pledge. If children want to waste an entire game running around under the bleachers or playing games instead of learning from the varsity contest, that’s their problem. But if they are screwing around during the anthem, that’s disrespectful to others in attendance — and to those that have served.
I’m not talking about parents with crying babies or toddlers, but to those whose children are old enough to walk. These children can start learning about the flag and the anthem and traditions at an early age.
To me, the anthem is sacred. St. Pius includes a prayer before competition, and I doubt children would be allowed to disrupt it. I hold the same reverence for the anthem, and even though I’m not in charge or parenting anyone’s children, we are all at the same site where learning and the student-athlete experience is taking place, and we are all positive or negative examples.
The quality of the singing or the singer should not be a topic of conversation at the time. The “Star-Spangled Banner” is an extremely difficult, 1 1/2 octave song, and if someone struggles through it, there should be no laughter or jeering.
If the singer forgets the words, the crowd should be honored to sing along and help finish it, rather than booing. Lobo fans, I hope you are reading this.
Hopefully, these are reminders about what most of you felt all along. In the months ahead, there may be jokes about paying attention “because Brooks wants us to,” but ideally, we honor our national anthem because it’s the right thing to do.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.