In a controversial segment on ESPN earlier this week, Journalism Professor Kevin Blackistone railed against the military's influence on sports, decrying "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a dated "war anthem" that should be eliminated along with other nationalistic pre-game rituals.
The heated comments were made during an Around the Horn segment concerning Northwestern's new football uniform that features the American flag. In addition to the uniform, Blackistone said that sports lovers should unite against other "military symbolism embraced in sports: whether it's the singing of a war anthem to open every game, whether it's going to get a hot dog and being able to sign up for the Army at the same time, whether it's the NFL's embrace of the mythology of the Pat Tillman story."
While Blackistone makes some valid points, the thrust of his argument is flawed. As he acknowledges, the national anthem is a staple of American sports games. It's tradition. I doubt most people even think about it when they go to a game. It's been sung prior to every baseball game since the World Series in 1917! And besides, while I don't love everything our country does, I do love our country, and I see no problem with paying respect before the game begins.
Host Tony Reali challenged Blackistone, but the professor didn't back down.
"You are conflating a war anthem with a simple game," he said. "And when you have military flyovers and all the other military symbolism that goes on in sports, I think, you've got a problem."
Do we have a problem? Again, I disagree. Singing the national anthem is just fine, I think, but watch the video decide for yourself.