For some Americans, the Super Bowl is the culmination of two teams fighting it out to claim the title of the best team in one of the world’s toughest sports. For many other Americans it’s a time to eat, drink, be merry, drink some more and make silly bets. One of the many prop bets on the game is the over/under on the length of the National Anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner is a notoriously hard song to sing. It is a lot harder to sing in front of thousands of fans and millions watching around the world. How hard is it to nail one of the best National Anthem performances ever?
We often come across viral videos of people (famous and average Joes) giving their best effort, only to find out the hard way their best isn’t good enough. Who could forget Carl Lewis’s infamous Francis Scott “Off” Key version? Michael Bolton using a cheat sheet? And Fergie’s painful attempt that left the players and crowd laughing? But as hard as it is to sing, when it is done right, it is one of the most rousing pieces of music one can hear. Whether the singer goes the traditional route or decides to add a little bit of flourish; the song can get you right in the feels.
So, this brings up the question. Which rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner performed at a sporting event is the best? Before the AFC Championship game, singer Ashanti’s mic cut out which might have been a disaster except for thousands of Chiefs fans take up the reins and singing a memorable version of the song.
Here are some of the more memorable renditions of the national anthem.
Buckingham Palace after 9/11
Ok, I know…. This version didn’t take place at a sports event. In fact, it was probably the farthest from sporting event that it could be. In the days after 9/11, with flights in and around the US shut down, many Americans found themselves stranded overseas during one of the darkest moments in American history.
In London, many found themselves wandering around and milling about tourist spots.
The Queen, breaking royal tradition, allowed the Star-Spangled Banner to be played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Make all the Royal Family jokes you want, but this was one of the classiest moves of all.
US Military Academy Combined Choirs
In 2005, while the War in Iraq was in high gear, the NFL decided to forgo the usual celebrity singer and invited the choirs of the service academies to sing the anthem.
In typical military style, the arrangement was simple. The harmonies of the combined choirs, however, was beautiful beyond words.
You can argue she has one of the top five Super Bowl halftime shows ever. (That catch is legendary)
But in 2016, Lady Gaga put her talented voice to work and delivered a rousing version of the anthem. What followed was a clinic to young singers on how to add personal flair to the song while still not taking attention away from the song itself.
The chest pounding was awesome too.
1991 NHL All-Star Game
The Chicago Blackhawks have a tradition. During the national anthem, you cheer and clap. It’s a great part of hockey culture but there was no better time to do it during the 1991 All-Star Game.
With the country in the middle of the Gulf War, Chicagoans made sure to cheer extra loud and send love to the troops in the Gulf.
If this doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what to tell you.
Boston Bruins game after the Boston Marathon Bombing
After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Bostonians and the rest of the country rallied together in unity. One of the best examples of this was the first Bruins game after the bombing. After a touching tribute to the victims, Rene Rancourt, the Bruins long-time singer, started singing the anthem.
Two lines in, he did what most singers don’t do…. He stopped. Realizing the crowd was taking over out of emotion, Rancourt let them run with it.
There are times, when we truly come together as Americans and this was one of those times.
At Super Bowl XXV, America and her Allies were 10 days into the air assault portion of the Gulf War. The biggest military engagement since Vietnam, Americans were rightfully worried for the aviators flying sorties over Iraq and the troops who were preparing for the inevitable ground assault to liberate Kuwait.
In fact, ABC didn’t even air the halftime show, instead cutting to an ABC News Special Report with Peter Jennings.
This was also a unique time. With the combination of media attention because of the war, the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the growth of global television, this Super Bowl was one of the first broadcast around the world reaching over 750 million people.
Enter Whitney Houston.
Wearing a simple tracksuit and backed by the Florida Orchestra, Houston started off strong and only got stronger. Known for her powerful vocals, she gave us one of the most tremendous renditions of the song our country has seen to this day. The nation went crazy for it, to the point it was released as a single and got to #20 in the Billboard Top 100. (Houston donated the proceeds to charity)
As far as celebrities go, this is the benchmark they are measured up against when they sing the anthem.
Are there any other versions of the Star-Spangled banner that you thought were awesome?