Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Anthem

How many times have you heard it?
"Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light…"
How many times have you gotten up to go to the refrigerator one last time before the game started and paid no attention to it? Or switched channels to catch the score of another game? After all, you've heard the song a million times, why listen again?
"What so proudly we hailed, at the twilight's last gleaming?"
It's a difficult song to sing; only a powerful voice can sing it well, as the high notes make it a stretch for most amateurs. We all know the words; we usually sing along at the stadium, murmuring softly so the guy in the next seat can't hear us butcher it. Most often, we notice the song when someone fails to sing it well, or when someone interprets it in a way other than the usual. Some years ago, there was some talk about removing it as the National Anthem, replacing it with a song everyone could sing with ease. 
"Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight…"
Have you ever listened to the words? I mean really listened?
"O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?" 
Most Americans probably know a little of the history of the song. Maryland attorney Francis Scott Key wrote it on the morning of September 14, 1814. Key was involved in negotiations for the release of a friend held captive by the British. His negotiation was successful, but the British, about to commence an attack on Baltimore, detained Key and his friends. Key witnessed the attack from the deck of the British frigate Tonnant in Baltimore Harbor, occasionally catching glimpses of the giant flag above Fort McHenry in the light of exploding shells. 
"And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air…"  
I confess to being guilty of taking the Anthem for granted. Someone sings or plays it before every sporting event. How many times have I heard it? I did a little rough figuring: I've probably seen an average of four sporting events a week for the fifty plus years I have been aware of the world. Fifty years equals two thousand six hundred weeks, times the four games each week, equals ten thousand four hundred. I doubt that in all those times I ever really listened to the words. 
Then came the events of and following September 11, 2001. I don't want another song that is easier to sing. In my ears it reinforces what it means to be an American. Now I understand the feeling of intense pride that inspired Key to write it.
"Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."
Now the words bring tears to my eyes. 
"O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave,"
"O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"
Yes it does.
This piece is a chapter in Larry's 'Between the Fuzzy Parts', available in paperback and e-book on
Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'Twisted Logic: 50 Edgy Flash Fiction Stories', 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'. His books are available in paperback and e-book.

He also writes about sports for Season Tickets, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

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