Like a decent chunk of America’s football fans, I tuned in Sunday to the NFL’s conference championship games, won by the Giants and Patriots over the Niners and Ravens, respectively.
The AFC contest — the one captured by New England, in case you’re not up on who’s in the which conference, the other being the NFC — kicked off first, around noon following the singing, by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, of the national anthem.
Aerosmith has been around so long that, no joke, a Portland concert by the band was among the factors my high school baseball coach had to consider when rescheduling one of our games my sophomore year. A few of my older teammates were going to the concert, and bless his heart, our coach didn’t want to make the guys endure the unsweet emotion of having to choose between the game and the show.
Anyway, I was fairly excited to hear Tyler’s name announced Sunday, but the excitement quickly ebbed when, well, he began to sing. Without getting into any great detail, he just didn’t sound very good singing the anthem.
I love the national anthem and my two favorite ways of hearing it are a) sung traditionally and simply by someone of either gender with a rich, pleasing voice and b) played traditionally a school band (OSU’s typically does a great job and did on Thursday night when I was there to watch the Beavers beat UCLA).
Another band of Aerosmith’s vintage, Boston, does a nice rendition as well; I have it on CD, and Boston also performed the anthem before one of Oregon’s bowl games a few years back.
Elsewhere on the rock and roll front, I don’t necessarily like Jimi Hendrix’s famed version of it, but it is iconic in its own way.
I seem to recall Huey Lewis and the News performing the anthem before a major league all-star game one time, and they must have done at least OK because I can’t remember thinking otherwise.
The most notable pregame anthem performance of all time, of course, remains the one turned in by Lt. Frank Drebbin (Leslie Nielsen) impersonating opera singer Enrico Palozzo in “The Naked Gun.” A bunch of bombs in the air …
Frank, an under cover police detective, then goes on to turn in a most memorable umpiring performance as well, and of course prevents Reggie Jackson from killing the queen of England, but all of that detracts from our main point here:
In the right hands, the anthem is a thing of beauty, and in the wrong hands, well, it reminds pained listeners that everybody’s got their dues in life to pay.