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No Sports, No National Anthem

by Craig Mattick

If it wasn't for sports, would you hear the national anthem?  If it wasn't for sports, the only time you would hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" would be on national holidays or when a TV station signs off the air for the evening.

When did our nation's song become synonymous with sporting events?

The earliest accounts go back to 1918, during the World Series.  During the seventh-inning stretch of game one of the World Series between Chicago and Boston, a band at the event played the song, and Cubs and Red Sox players then faced the centerfield flag pole and stood at attention.  The crowd at the game was already on its feet for the seventh-inning stretch, and they began to sing along and applauded at the end of the song.  The band played it again at the next two games of the World Series, and when the series switched to Boston, the owner of the Red Sox hired a band and they, too, played the national anthem.

In the years after that World Series, the anthem was only played on special occasions with Major League Baseball, like opening day, holidays and the World Series.  Eventually, all sports took up the custom of playing the anthem before the game.  

If sports had not taken up the custom, when would you hear it?  The most patriotic moments in America's history have come after a tragedy, like 9-11, when the first sporting event after the tragedy, the nation's official song is sung.  

How the song is sung can be controversial, but the reason for the anthem should never be questioned.  Thank the band members from the 1918 World Series.