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Read first, watch second:

I was just linking to to a Youtube video of “O, Canada” for a work review (you can’t go to a resort in the Dominican Republic without hearing it at least once per visit), and because I enjoy being cheeky I linked to a rendition from an Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup Finals game. Now, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but every time I hear another country’s national anthem I always find myself thinking, “That doesn’t touch the Star Spangled banner.”

Maybe everybody thinks that about their own national anthem, I dunno, but ours just seems to be so prevalent in popular culture. I remember when I played lacrosse in the UK and my teammates made me sing it, and half of them even knew the words and the tune (“I just love it, it’s so cheesy!” one of them told me, to my mild dismay). And surely no other country turns out versions with as much flava as the one above.

Did you know that the tradition of singing the anthem before sporting events only began during World War II? FDR encouraged doing it at baseball games as one of many ways to promote patriotism (I learned this while researching a paper on wartime baseball back in college). Which brings me to the all-time coolest rendition of the anthem that I’ve yet heard (followed closely by Jimi Hendrix, though his version had somewhat dissonant undertones that kind of taint it for me. As a musical piece: phenomenal. As the national anthem: makes me sad. Anyway…).

I first came across this video when The Sports Guy referenced it in one of his mailbags a couple years ago. It’s Marvin Gaye, totally an all-time cool cat, performing it over a basic drum beat at the 1983 NBA All-Star game. Between his stunna shades, his sharp suit, his cool swagger, his silky voice, and the fact that a bunch of NBA legends (Bird, Magic, Dr. J and more) were standing on the floor with him…I mean, as Simmons would say, how can you not get goosebumps? His performance was so badass, in fact, that Nike used it in a great ad campaign last summer to promote the Redeem Team.

After watching the “O, Canada” video, I just had to listen to Marvin’s Star Spangled Banner. I know it’s corny, but hearing the song at sporting events almost always makes me tear up. How lucky are we to have the space, and freedom, and money to have fun with our friends and family in the sunshine at a baseball game, or at a bacchanal like the NBA All-Star game? The song hits me especially hard when I’m abroad, and missing and thinking about the things that really make me love our country. And of course the 4th of July is coming up – if I had any patience at all I’d wait to post this then, but I don’t – so that just adds to it even more. I have a feeling my friends at home will quietly laugh at how cheezy I’m being, but I know the expats will get it. God Bless America.

P.S. This isn’t to say that Australia is a place without tremendous athletic traditions and customs (and it’s not like people here aren’t free to have a great time at sporting events!).  I’ll be experiencing that firsthand tomorrow night when we attend the Rugby League State of Origin game, which is apparently a very, very big deal. I promise to post with pictures and observations laster this week. Go Blues!

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