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First world problems, and my gripes about the pregame national anthem.

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Kids can be cute sometimes, sure, but good luck getting them in tune

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Each weekday evening, my Twins routine usually consists of me listening to the first few innings on the radio during my daily post-work outdoor walk before switching over to Dick Bremer & Co. Because of this practice, I usually hear the national anthem before each game, which is played on WCCO but not FSN. During the recent series in Tampa, I caught a string of tremendous solo anthems.

Though not especially patriotic in a ‘Murica sort of way, I do enjoy the Star Spangled Banner and what it stands for. I especially like the Twins’ choosing a veteran to raise the stars-n-stripes before each contest. I know that we are all there to see a baseball game—or maybe drink, depending on how the season is going—and not a nationalistic pep rally, but to me it seems like a nice moment to remember the bigger things happening in the world besides baseball.

There’s really only one thing that can dampen my enthusiasm for the pregame proceedings: a bad anthem rendition. An amazing Banner can raise goosebumps…

…while a bad one leaves me feeling a bit empty.

The primary culprit? Kids. Children. Youngsters. Youth. Whatever you want to call them, I’m specifically referring to elementary and middle school groups. I’ve noticed in recent years that Target Field seems to favor that demographic. In the five games I’ve attended this season, all the “rocket’s red glares and bombs bursting in air” were recounted by pre-teens.

A part of me understands that kids are cute (particularly when viewed from a distance), innocent, and it’s a cool experience for them. But being purely selfish and brutally honest—and what’s more American than that, right?—a few problems with this approach are obvious:

  • There is absolutely no way to tune up a group of pre-HS kids. It just isn’t going to happen. Some of the middle-schoolers may be hitting puberty mid-song for all we know.
  • Good luck getting them to all start at the same time. The first verse is usually wiped out while the conductor scrambles to get everyone synched up.
  • Just when everything seems to calm down, the kiddos are shown on the enormous HD scoreboard—resulting in more waves and giggling than actual singing—and distracted by the stadium fireworks crackling overhead.
  • For the youngest elementary groups, most of the lyrics are unknown and thus unpronounceable. “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming” might as well be Shakespeare to them.

The only scenario in which I’ll tolerate a kiddie anthem? One in which it precludes a pre-recorded version. Unless that recording is the MIDI from Tony LaRussa Baseball II (I mean c’mon, they even put vibrato in at the end!)…

…I’ll always vote for live over taped.

While most of the above was written in satire (kids aren’t that horrible…are they?), I do indeed wish that Target Field would stagger its anthem-crooners more. A few soloists, maybe even some instrumental renditions, and not just school group after school group.

That brings me to the single greatest anthem performance I ever had the pleasure to experience. You probably don’t know the name Harry Waters, Jr., but what if I said he played Marvin Berry (“hey Chuck…it’s your cousin MARVIN BERRY!”) in Back To The Future?! He also happens to teach in the theater department at Macalester College in St. Paul. Though I did not record this video, I did witness it:

Poll

What are your thoughts on the national anthem before Twins games?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    I enjoy children...I’m not an ogre
    (33 votes)
  • 29%
    Give me a soloist every day of the week
    (41 votes)
  • 25%
    Instrumental
    (36 votes)
  • 20%
    Just hire Mr. Waters to do it every damn game
    (29 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now