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The National Anthem: Patriotism and Stopwatches

Go ahead and call me old-fashioned, but I thought that Beyonce’s performance at the Inauguration of President Obama was horrible and disrespectful.

I am not talking about the controversy surrounding her supposed lip synching –– perhaps all activities associated with inaugurations should be lip synched to avoid gaffes such as the one Chief Justice John Roberts committed in administering the oath of office to Barrack Obama at the 2009 Inauguration.

I am talking about the length and style of presentation. Beyonce took two minutes, twenty-one and nine-tenths seconds to deliver her rendition, which sounded to me more like a MTV performance than a solemn, respectful rendition which the occasions demands.

In my retirement, I have developed an infatuation with the lengths of performances of our National Anthem. The accepted average length is one minute and thirty-four seconds, but if you time its performance by military bands, the “Mendoza Line” is more like one minute and twenty seconds.

It can be done. Kelly Clarkson’s rendition at the 2012 Super Bowl lasted exactly the accepted average length of 1:34 – twenty seconds less that it took Christina Aguilera to sing, and botch up, the anthem at the 2011 Super Bowl.

An online sports bookie had set the over/under length for Kelly’s performance at exactly 1:34, knowing that the average length of her performances at previous World Series, NBA Finals, the grand opening of Yankee Stadium, and the Indianapolis 500 was 1:35.5.

The trend today is for the focus of the National Anthem to be on the performer rather than on the anthem itself. So we end up with rock and roll versions, country western versions, and rhythm and blues versions, with prospects of square dance and rap versions on the horizon.

Why not just sing the anthem as it was written?

Anybody taking bets on how long Alicia Keys will take to sing the National Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl? She has supposedly promised not to sing the anthem in the traditional way but rather as if it was a totally new song. I can’t wait, and will have my stopwatch at the ready.

Beyonce is scheduled to headline the halftime performance at this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. Please don’t let her near the National Anthem. I nominate Kelly Clarkson to be the designated singer of the National Anthem at all inaugurations and Super Bowls!

So, OK, I admit I am an old fogie who happens to love our National Anthem.

A New Orleans native, Ron Borne is a medicinal chemist by experience, and an amateur writer by avocation.  He served Ole Miss and the School of Pharmacy as a teacher, researcher and administrator for more than 40 years and is now “retired” and living in his center of the universe. Email him at rbourne@olemiss.edu.


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