Observations from the bleachers: Will everyone please rise

Photo Credit: Alex Washburn/Times Free Press

Photo Credit: Alex Washburn/Times Free Press


If you have ever covered high school sports full time, perhaps you can understand me. If you haven’t, I’d like to share my perspective.

I’m about 45 minutes away from covering a varsity girls basketball game between two teams with marginally talented players, mostly disinterested parents, a few overbearing and insufferable fathers and no students who aren’t participating on the respective teams.

I’m already dreading standing for the national anthem, which I’ve grown to loathe in my four years on the job.

The shitty school band’s version, the good school band’s version, the pre-recorded instrumental version, the vain choir student who believes they’re auditioning for American Idol’s version and every other fucking rendition I’ve heard (approximately 50 others).

Obviously I have a passion for sports, having played them since I could walk and enjoyed watching them on TV since I was conscious enough to process what I was seeing. I discovered my love for writing when I figured out I could articulate my thoughts much more effectively than I could verbally.  So when this career opportunity arose, I was intrigued by the possibility of combining two passions and making it my livelihood.

Selfishly, I thought the business plan behind the publication I write for was a good one given the current state of the media – more specifically print media, and local high school sports coverage.  I was told very early on that if I wanted to make a lot of money, writing isn’t the avenue to take. But I figured as the first full-time reporter hired, and told of the ‘master-plan’ during the interview process and how they believe from promoting within, I’d have a good chance to make real money should the model work out.

So that’s why I’m here. Grinding until the big payoff.

Which brings me back to the ridiculousness of playing the national anthem, let alone standing for it, prior to a high school sporting event. I typically cover anywhere from three to five sporting events per week, and have been doing so for four school years.  At some point following my first year I began to question the significance of standing for the anthem.

People stand, rolling their eyes at the flag as they struggle to lift their right arm to place limply over their hearts. Students are texting on the cell phones, or whatever the fuck it is they do when they reach to fidget with the fucking thing every one minute like clockwork. Or they’re talking with one and other.

Officials/umpires stand waiting for the thing to end so they can get on with making their (at most) 50 bucks for their service. I, admittedly irrationally, sulk in the misery of having to be in attendance for the extra one to three minutes it takes to complete the anthem.

Generally speaking, the vast majority of those in attendance are at the furthest point from genuinely honoring the country during the anthem. Unless it’s an extenuating circumstance, like the Olympics where the essence is national pride through competition, I say just start the fucking game.

Other than the student singers, and perhaps their parents, who are looking to showcase their vocal skills, I don’t think anyone should object to that.

During these times which land between my arrival and the start of the game I am reporting on, I mostly am left to my own thoughts which have become more and more demented as the years have gone on. It started from people watching, but I don’t like people and that used to put me in bad moods.

(DISCLAIMER LOL – as I was writing this one of the girls from the sophomore game just threw a conniption fit 10 feet away from me on her mom for something I didn’t catch. But she’s still yelling at her mom as I type and I’m doing my best not to stare. But she knocked over an entire box of candy that someone was selling in the stands. She’s sobbing crying, and hyperventilating while cussing her mother out. This keeps me entertained.)

Back to my rant.

When I tried to process why the anthem is played prior to sporting events, the first thing I thought of is it’s to show appreciation for the country that offers all of us the freedom to enjoy leisure activities such as playing or attending sporting events. But why is it limited to sports? Why don’t we play the anthem prior to any leisure activity people of a free country can enjoy? We don’t hear it prior to movies at the theater. They don’t play the anthem before some unfortunate female comes onto a stage to take off her clothes for the satisfaction of hundreds of spectators at a strip club.

The bottom line is that like many things in this world, it just doesn’t make sense. Perhaps there is a distinct origin, but I would never put forth the effort to look it up. Whenever the trend started, it’s most definitely dated. As we as a society have evolved from slavery, to segregation to relative integration – I think we can scrap playing the national anthem before Smithview takes on Jonesville in girls fucking soccer.

There are two more minutes on the clock until it runs out, then I’ll have to stand for the fucking anthem.

Until next time,


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