Many Americans stand while the American National Anthem is played at sporting events before a game start. However, although the anthem may inspire patriotic emotions, not many know much about its history or the reason sports teams play it.
Politics and the anthem
Marc Ferris, the author of a book about the Star-Spangled Banner, says that national anthems are political. They are often born out of war and become intertwined with sports because sports are like a kind of war without dying.
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The Star-Spangled Banner and the Civil War
US Army insights show a relationship between the Star-Spangled Banner and war. The song was written about a battle in the 1812 war and was apparently played for the first time at a baseball game in the Civil War era. The irony is that it was written by a slave-owning southerner but became the anthem of the North during the Civil War.
The 1918 World Series
During World War I, the anthem was played at the 1918 World Series. When the Boston Red Sox played in Chicago against the Cubs 17 months after the US entered the war, a military band played the anthem, although it was still unofficial. Over 100,000 Americans had already died in the war at that time. When the song played, players put their hands over their hearts and American’s began to sing along.
Sound systems and World War II
When the series moved to Boston, the song was played during pre-game activities by the Red Sox and paired with introductions to wounded soldiers. This is probably why there are many who believe today that the anthem conveys respect for the fallen among the police and military.
It took the introduction of sound systems for the anthem to really catch on during World War II, especially as a way to introduce sports games. Congress made it official in 1931.
Most sports teams continued to play the anthem even after the war as an expression of American patriotism. The anthem has the gravitas, history, and emotional connections that inspire many patriotic Americans, although in recent years some protest during the anthem to call attention to social injustices.