Let’s Update the National Anthem

The 2016 Summer Olympics begins August 5. Think ahead to the award ceremonies, athletes standing on the podium while the national anthem plays. In general, do you ever get tired of listening to national anthems? Ever get tired of listening to our own national anthem? Boring. Rumor has it, pre-World War II, they didn’t play the national anthem at the start of each athletic event. How refreshing that would be.

Regardless, back to the Olympics and those medal ceremonies…how do you feel about our national anthem in that setting? A little stuffy, maybe? Does ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ really send the message you have in mind when Michael Phelps or the women’s soccer team stand on the podium in front of the world, after a triumph over the bufoonish French and sinister Russians? How about, instead, three minutes of Chuck Berry? Something strident and upbeat. Something happy, a little juvenile and rebellious. In most cases ‘Maybelline‘ will do fine:

The Cadillac pulled up ahead of the Ford,
The Ford got hot and wouldn’t do no more.
It then got cloudy and it started to rain,
I tooted my horn for a passin’ lane.
The rain water blowin’ all under my hood,
I knew that was doin’ my motor good.

Maybelline, why can’t you be true…

Supposedly based on a Western swing song, Chuck Berry updated it with some super-charged guitar licks and rock and roll was born, first recorded in May of 1955. ‘Maybelline’ is a safe choice, generic and All-American. Or, if the athletic event involves a lot of Europeans, for example rowing, then ‘Roll Over Beethoven‘ delivers a heavier load of straightforward up-yours triumphalism…America beats the Old World, again.

Well, early in the mornin’ I’m a-givin’ you a warnin’
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes.
Hey diddle diddle, I’m playin’ my fiddle,
Ain’t got nothin’ to lose.
Roll Over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news.

I’m visualizing Hope Solo, the personification of bad-girl, on the podium while ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ plays at high volume and the Russians and Germans stand frozen, eyes bulged and heads exploding. The Olympics are getting kind of stuffy anyway. Which would you rather watch: rhythmic gymnastics or a football game?

Playing an anthem at the medal ceremony was always intended as a motivational tool – losers suffer the humiliation of having to stand respectfully while the winners’ chests swell with pride. If we force the Olympic Committee to play a song that more truly represents the American character, it raises the stakes of the competitions and makes the award ceremony a lot more interesting. Those Frenchies don’t want to listen to Chuck Berry.

How does this work? My story is that Congress passes a law choosing one or two other songs as US national anthem ‘for the duration of the Summer Games’. The International Olympic Committee has to honor whatever ditty a nation picks, right? So – if Congress says it’s ‘Maybelline’, the IOC is stuck. Of course, once the games are over the national anthem reverts back to what it was before.

I know there are some of you right now going thumbs down on this…you have second thoughts about devaluing the individual athletes in favor of cheap nationalism; and there’s always a chance that Congress might pick a sleazy rap song like ‘F**k The Police’ by NWA, or God forbid, something with Neil Diamond. But hey, let’s have some fun and mess with their heads down there in Rio. It’s temporary. When was the last time Congress screwed something up? What could go wrong?

The Bottom Line
‘The Star Spangled Banner’ is boring and old-fashioned. In a big-time nationalistic environment like the Olympics, let’s pick something that comes closer to real America, circa 2016.

Let’s hear it: “USA USA USA…”