Tag Archives: national anthem

Anthem Removal Hits Wrong Note

By Jason Menard

Since the recent ugly situation in San Jose, there has been plenty of talk about stopping the practice of playing the national anthem before the start of hockey games. And if leagues start singing that song, forgive fans for thinking that they’ve hit a wrong note.

While there are so many reasons why the anthems should go, there are two big reasons why they should stay: pride and respect.

A national anthem is more than an advertising jingle for a country – it’s a shared experience around which an entire nation can rally, raising their voices in unison to proclaim their pride for their nation. It is but one brief moment in our lives when we can stand up and wear our hearts on our sleeve.

And, unfortunately, it’s an opportunity that we don’t get often enough. Unless you’re an insomniac or a shift worker, chances are you’re not awake when stations sign on with the playing of the national anthem. Most of us are out of public school, so we don’t have to go through the ritual. In fact, except for attendance at sporting events, I can literally go months without hearing the anthem.

Is that right? While being a proud Canadian doesn’t mean you have to engage in a sing-along, it certainly doesn’t hurt. There are few things more moving than hearing thousands of voices rising in unison as O Canada builds to its climax. In fact, one of the most stirring experiences I ever had was standing in Olympic Stadium before a Montreal Expos’ home opener, right during the time when Separatism was regaining momentum, and listening as a few boos were drowned out by tens of thousands of Canadians proclaiming their love for this nation through song.

Donny Osmond had it right when he sang that a few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch. Whether it’s the knuckleheads in San Jose who chose disrespecting a nation’s anthem as the best venue for expressing their dislike of the opposing team, or it’s the egomaniacal few at junior hockey games whose ego can only be stroked by shouting “Go Team Go,” in the final few moments of quiet during the song, the good outweighs the bad.

The problem isn’t the anthem; it’s that we’ve grown up without a healthy respect for what the song stands for. I grew up thinking that the playing of the anthem was almost sacred and the manner in which you comported yourself during its playing was reflective of how you felt about the country. And every time it’s played I will stand in respectful silence, mouthing or singing the words depending on the venue. However, especially at sporting events, you will see people talking through the anthems, moving, shouting, wearing hats, or performing any manner of disrespectful acts during its playing.

But the problem isn’t with me, it’s with them. And it’s for that reason that sporting leagues shouldn’t stop the practice of playing with the anthem. We need time to pay more respect, not less.

How we react to foreign anthems says a lot about us as Canadians. If we boo, we’re not disrespecting a politician or a policy that we may not like – we’re disrespecting a people as a whole. We’re disrespecting a diverse group of individuals who may or may not share many of the same beliefs, values, and dreams that we do. But by standing in respectful silence, we show our compassion, our kinship, and our respect for our fellow man.

There is an argument that states that in league competitions, where teams are representing cities, not countries, that it’s inappropriate to play the anthem. That’s a short-sighted view. Sporting events, where competition and passions are high, are the perfect venue for this type of national fervor to be displayed. Respectful silence or singing along followed by a heart-felt cheer is not just a sign of fidelity to our country, but also a bonding experience with our fellow countrymen.

The chances that we have to show our national pride are already few and far between. Pandering to the lowest common denominator in our society and removing this practice due to the actions of a classless few is an insult to the majority of Canadians – and Americans – who are able to combine national pride with international courtesy.

Is it so bad that, for just a couple of minutes of our lives, we’re allowed to reflect on who and what we are as a people? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had more, not fewer, opportunities to express our pride?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

What Ever Happened to Respect?

By Jason Menard

Silence is not only golden – it’s respectful. Well, it is at least until the moment that some disrespectful moron chooses to misuse that honourable pause to draw attention to themselves with their 15 seconds of fame.

As the band Sloan once sang, “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” And that sentiment can be carried on to a select few attendees at our arenas and stadiums. When it comes learning how to show respect, Canadian sporting fans have a long way to go to.

An interesting parallel was broken at the recent home opener for the London Knights junior hockey club. When two veterans of combat came on to the ice to take part in an opening ceremony, they were greeted with a standing ovation from the assembled throng. But this is contrasted with a select few idiots choosing to use the singing of the national anthem as the background music for their sub-intellectual, puerile outbursts.

Does it not seem somewhat odd that we’re willing to stand and gratefully acknowledge the contributions that the veterans have made to the betterment of our society, yet when it comes to honouring the very flag and anthem for which they fought, we’re found woefully lacking?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that sporting events should be a time of fun, excitement, and celebration. And I appreciate the overwhelming crescendo of applause and cheers that build as the anthem reaches its climax. But there is a time and place for everything, and interrupting our anthem in the middle to release a guttural, animalistic scream is disrespectful and insulting to all Canadians.

And this isn’t just a London thing. It happens all the time in arenas and stadiums across the country. Whether it’s hockey, football, baseball, or any other sport you can imagine, I’ve yet to find one sport that’s immune from the presence of this particular self-congratulatory glory hound.

Really, is in the middle of a song that represents our nation – one with which we should be standing at attention and singing along – the best time to shout “Go Team Go!?” Honestly, I’m pleased that at that moment you finally were able to muster enough brain cells to string two words together (I’m sure it helped that two were short and were the same word, though), but those are sentiments that don’t have a shelf life. They don’t need to be accompanied by Calixa Lavallée’s soundtrack, nor do they need Mr. Justice Robert Stanley Weir’s or Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier’s (depending on which language, of course) lyrics serving as background vocals for your indispensable contribution to Canadian pride.

Of course, how can we expect to show our anthem the proper respect when we don’t place a premium on it in other aspects of life? Our children listen to the national anthem in school, but don’t sing along. In fact, my 11-year-old son states that many kids in his school talk through the anthem or otherwise act inappropriately. O Canada is an anthem of pride, but each year we see Remembrance Day inch closer and closer to irrelevancy due to the lack of interest we have.

This isn’t like the debate about prayer in school. There is no grey area. The moment we choose to live in this country, we are all Canadians. While each of us is encouraged to retain our social, cultural, and religious identities, we must also recognize that we are all Canadians. And the anthem, like the flag it represents, is a tangible representation of what it means to be Canadians and, as such, deserves respect.

The anthem is powerful. I remember attending an opening day for baseball’s Montreal Expos a few years back. When the anthem started, it was met with a small chorus of boos – which is political expression at its best. But instead of being overwhelmed, the others in the packed stadium sang with all their hearts and voices, the volume rising until the naysayers were overwhelmed. The sense of Canadiana and connection to each other was palpable and it was one of the most moving experiences. At that moment, I truly felt what it meant to be proud of our country. I was able to express outwardly what I’ve always felt inwardly.

We need more moments like that. We need to express our pride to truly feel our pride. And that needs to be done without some moron interrupting the process. Showing pride in our country isn’t the domain of beer commercials – it’s up to each and every one of us to take a stand and use these moments to showcase the best that the country has to offer.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved