There's been a lot of chatter on the internet the past few days following a certain blog posting by a man named Rob Otto of mlive.com, and particularly a re-posting of it on Puck Daddy of Yahoo Sports fame.
The issue in question has been largely the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans cheering during the Star Spangled Banner. Upon first reading about this, I was under the impression that the cheering was drowning out the song itself. I have since seen this video, and find myself border-line flabbergasted at the implication. The only thing that is is a really awesome scene. It's a playoff atmosphere. It's the epitome of excitement and anticipation. (It's Chicago fans still venting, following what felt like eons of bad hockey, but I digress...)
Invariably, Dallas has been pulled into this debate. A debate, Google reveals, that has been taking place on the internet for many, many years. Stars fans at the American Airlines Center, and before that at Reunion Arena, shout "Stars!" twice during the performance of the song, in concert with the performer. Perhaps someone could fill us in on when exactly this tradition came into being, but in the 12+ years I've lived in Dallas, it seems to me it's always been that way. Capitals fans have a similar tradition, though it first came from the Orioles.
Is it disrespectful? Is it harmless enthusiasm? If you could put a stop to it, how would you go about it?
I don't yell "Stars" at the games. I never have, save one occasion. My wife does, and I don't have a problem with it. I think it's fine actually, and I'll tell you why.
Follow the jump for more...
The Why's and the What-For's
A discussion of the anthem at sporting events must almost certainly start with: "Why do we sing the anthem before sporting events?"
A definitive answer or origin is hard to pin down, but all signs point to baseball. Some will tell you it was a game in Philadelphia in 1897, others will say it was during the first World War in 1918 that the tradition started to take hold...I know not for certain. We do it. We're not going to stop doing it. I like it, personally. It's become a part of the fabric of sports. The last several measures of the Star Spangled Banner at any sporting event in this country are nearly always accompanied by some (inebriated?) patrons whistling and cheering. It lends an air of excitement to the moment and there's nothing wrong with that cheering. So why is it wrong in Chicago to cheer the entire thing?
These days it seems the "honest to God" patriotism of it (in the U.S.) is saved mostly for momentous occasions like national holidays, tragedies, and of course, the all important Super Bowl. The vast majority of fans will stand. They remove their caps. They stop eating. They stop texting. They may even put their right hand over their heart, and they may even mutter along. Patriotism isn't mandated in a setting where invariably there are people in the very same building getting drunk, buying a pretzel, or going to the bathroom DURING the anthem. Even in Montreal or Edmonton during a raucous chorus of "Oh, Canada" you cannot prevent these things.
To some, a valid question is "Why stop at sporting events? Why not other entertainment venues like movies or concerts?"
Whose broad stripes and bright "Stars!"
A very old friend of mine, college roommate, best-man in my wedding, etc is in the Navy. I have brought him to Stars games in the past, as recently as December. He yells "Stars" during the anthem. He didn't seem offended.
Some people might be. That's their right, but I don't understand why. I believe the context allows for some latitude. I think the people in Dallas, and all over the country in general, are respectful of the anthem. Using it to build excitement about the team people came to see does not detract from the symbolic nature of the flag and the song if it's truly important to you. Yelling "Stars" makes the anthem that much more special in Dallas rather than a routine witnessed hundreds of times by season ticket holders. It happens with the anthem. It does not subtract from it.
I wasn't born in Texas, and I certainly didn't "get here as soon as I could," but having lived here for quite a while now I feel quite confident in saying that Texans are the kind of people who have a great respect for their military and their country. I don't want to interject politics into this discussion, but I think everyone knows where I am going with this.
And if you don't believe me, come to a Stars game. About 20 minutes after the crowd yells "Stars!" twice during the anthem, we do something else. We stand. All of us. All 18,532 on a good night. We stand at the first commercial break and we honor a particular man or woman in the armed services, and ALL servicemen in the arena. Brad Richards currently donates tickets for this very purpose, and the the first commercial break of the evening has been used for years in this manner.
I've said it here before: Fans in Dallas don't stand up for much. They stand for that, though.
I have sufficient reverence for the flag, the anthem, and this great nation of ours that I choose not to yell "Stars" during the anthem, but I support those that do.
Oh Say can "Jussi!"
Questioning the patriotism of others is a slippery, contradictory slope. You do what you want in this country. That's what's great about it. Even so, using the anthem to disparage something is disrespectful in my book. So the "Red Wings Suck!" chants that emanate from a tiny minority of Stars fans and others around the league when the word "red" occurs is not my favorite.
The "border" wars during anthems in the playoffs are unfortunate should any booing occur. We've seen this go both ways. Booing the other country's anthem is foolish. Singing your own with increasing enthusiasm is a better response, and an awesome scene to behold.
The Anaheim Duck fans in some recent year, I don't recall, that actually booed during the national anthem when the word "Star" was sung were..well, insert your own word here.
And Stars fans, please take note: Jussi Jokinen doesn't play here anymore, so you can stop with the ridiculous shouting of "Ju-ssi!!!!" during the first line of the song. Like the Mooterus, that was never a good idea.
Don't Mess With...The American Airlines Center
That one time I chose to yell "Stars" during the anthem?
It was the 2007 All-Star game. There was a pervasive feeling amongst season ticket holders that the building was, uhhh... "under siege" by northeasterners and Canadians. It seemed the best way to defend, nay, declare ourselves.