Anthems deserve respect

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

When the national anthems are played before tonight's Ontario Hockey League game at the John Labatt Centre, we ask anyone tempted to speak, to do one thing . . . shut up.

That should get the point across.

The Plymouth Whalers come to the JLC tonight to play the London Knights. It's a virtual certainty that with a few stanzas left in the Canadian anthem some leather lung will bellow out "Go Knights Go," disrupting the proceedings. No doubt the howler will probably giggle at his inventiveness, thinking he's just pumped up the crowd to new heights of delirium.

The howler is no doubt delirious.

It happens at every home game with every singing of the anthem. It used to be only one or two individuals but now it's been taken up by whomever is moved to do the shouting and that at times includes young voices. It's done no matter how solemn the occasion. It even happened when the team was honouring veterans with Remembrance Day activities.

And consider that at many Knights home games, the anthem is delivered by a school or choir made up of young, nervous kids. Standing in front of 9,000 people is likely the highlight of their lives. When Bigmouth rips out, it's distracting and takes some of the joy out of the singing.

This type of activity isn't restricted to London. When the Knights go on the road you'll often hear the same shout at the same time.

It's been going on for years, even before the Knights came to the John Labatt Centre.

It's disrespectful, annoying and unnecessary.

Knights management says the team has received complaints about shouting during the anthem. It's a difficult problem to address considering there's nothing to prevent anyone from being rude, disrespectful and obnoxious.

"It's not just the fans, we're concerned as well," Knights assistant general manager Jim McKellar said. "It just isn't respectful."

The Knights are looking at a way to get that message across. They are considering an announcement before the anthem, asking people not to shout during its playing. They are also looking at having some of their players deliver a message on the video scoreboard requesting fans respect the anthem and remain silent.

Familiarity breeds contempt, one suspects.

In North America, anthems are playing before every sporting event. It has become such a large part of the proceedings that many take it for granted. Fans fidget, talk, look around, laugh, eat, drink and continue to move to their seat during the anthem.

Part of the lack of respect for the anthem stems from the frequency it's played and the numerous events it's played at. Playing the anthem on a worn out stereo system off a 1960 vinyl record isn't going to do much to restore the solemnity of O Canada!

And when the announcers says "Please remove your caps and hats," that's what it means. It doesn't mean keep it on if you are having a bad hair day or if your head's cold.

Take them off!

This type of disrespect could be prevented by not playing anthems as often as they are now. In many countries, the anthem is only played at sports events that are international in nature. When the anthem is played, it marks the importance of the occasion.

That will never happen in North America. The anthem will continue to be the starting point for almost every sports event.

That being the case, whatever needs to be done to stop this stupidity, please do it. Subtle hints no longer work.

The ideal ending to this story would be that whoever does the shouting recognize on their own that it's disrespectful and end it.

Failing that, it's up to peer pressure. If you're standing next to someone who lets it rip during the anthem, tell him to knock it off. If you aren't big into confrontation, squeeze away from him or her and centre them out.

If they want to be the centre of attention, make sure everyone knows who they are.


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