O say can you see ... what's wrong with us?

T.A. Barnhart

(i know by now: i better annotate this time "tongue-in-cheek" to avoid the worst of inevitable knee-jerking)

I listen to a lot of baseball on the radio.  I love baseball, and I love baseball on the radio.  I wish my family had stayed in Los Angeles in 1965 instead of moving to Montana; I could have grown up going to Dodgers games and listening to Vin Scully on my transistor radio.  To me, that seems a near-perfect childhood (the fantasy includes living near the beach so I could also grow up surfing and maybe learning to be cool, neither of which was possible in Billings, Montana, although the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in the World Series, Dave McNally of the Baltimore Orioles, came from Billings, and that factoid, if nothing else, is cool).

Living in Corvallis, I can actually pick up Dodgers game out of central California, although the reception fades in and out, and Vin is gone by the bottom of the fifth inning to do the tv broadcast; so I listen to Mariners games.  While I've not enjoyed all the years of inept play from the Mariners, I have enjoyed their two main broadcasters, Dave Niehaus and Ric Rees, who are two of the best in the business (there's nothing like Dave's "Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it's GRAAAAND salami time!").  Until this year, I probably listened to 90% of the radio broadcasts, and quite a few tv games; I've just been too busy this year to catch much more than half the games (and I no longer have cable, a good thing, so I rarely see any baseball games on the tube).

Right now, the Mariners are in Toronto, playing the Blue Jays, and that means, of course, that before the game both the American and Canadian national anthems are sung.  I've always loved the Canadian anthem; it's one of the most melodic and singable in the world.  It's one of the very few that can actually be thought of as a song, that is, something singable by an ordinary person.  But listening to the anthems before Wednesday's game, I suddenly realized why, in so many ways, our country is such a mess compared to Canada.  The problem is not the anthems, as such, but the key to the problems lie in the anthems, in the words and the nature of those words.

Our anthem:  "O say can you see ..."  and that's pretty much it.  The rest of it is filler about what is being seen.  F.S. Key is standing on an enemy ship and watching; Fort McHenry does not fall to the British, so to celebrate, he writes a long poem.  People liked his poem so much, they set it to music -- an English drinking song, no less.  So our national anthem is an unsingable, incomprehensible and passive clunker of a poem set to music meant to quaff ale by.  How perfect for a nation of beer-drinking tv watchers, a land of complainers-not-doers, a republic that is perfectly happy to let someone else do the hard work while they sit back and watch. 

The Canadian anthem:  "O Canada...True patriot love command ... O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!"  Canadians are not a people content to sit and watch.  Yes, they call on God to "keep our land glorious and free," but in the very next breath they answer that call themselves, to stand on guard.  It's not enough to see something inspiring; they get up and do that inspiring work themselves!  And did I mention their song can be sung by just about anyone?  It's a great tune, and if you sing it, you'll notice how the words bounce out of you; this was a song written to be sung happily, in praise of the nation and its people, not just "yippee they didn't burn the fort."

I'm not saying America is hopeless and pathetic; I'm not saying we never do anything positive or productive.  Nor am I saying that Canadians are better human beings or even that they possess a superior country; lacking warm beaches and winning baseball teams, not to mention that goofy version of football they play, the Canadians fall short in many areas.  But I seriously doubt the people of Canada would tolerate the criminally inept and corrupt government the majority of Americans seem willing to tolerate.  And while the Canadians have much to answer for in their treatment of indigenous peoples, the environment, and many other areas; when it comes to the basics, such as a national anthem that can be sung and means something relevant,  "O Canada, we stand on guard to thee" is every bit as exciting as a Gretzky shot on goal or the sun shining on the snows of the Canadian Rockies -- or a Yank, Joe Carter, hitting one out to win the Series for Toronto.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I don't know from national anthems, but as for baseball, TA, you are right on about Vin Scully, an extemporaneous poet if I ever heard one. At the little neighborhood tavern down the street from my house in Portland (The Gladstone Pub), I get the owner to cut the music and just turn the TV on when the Dodgers are playing. The Mariners announcers are such schills, though, I can't stand them, except for ex-Dodger Ron Fairly, who seems to know what he is talking about.

    Baseball on the radio is the best thing for those long drives out to the country.

    And even though Canadians are enamored with hockey, I do think they might be superior to us.

  • Vesuvio (unverified)

    The only thing the late great Hunter S. Thompson hated worse than Baseball was baseball on TV or the radio.

    And, if a person can be cool in Woody Creek, CO and have Johnny Depp spend over a million bucks to blow their ashes out of a 150' ft. tall gonzo cannon then it would stand to reason that a cool person can be cool anywhere.

    True, you can't surf in Montana, but even Jimmy Buffett wrote a song about the party merits of Montana in his classis ditty "Livingston Saturday Night" so there has to be some coolness going on up there.

    I dunno TAB, somehow even if you had grown up in California and learned to surf, somehow I still don't think you'd have gotten the cool thing down unless you learned to play guitar.

    Learn to play guitar and not only will you be cool everywhere, but even more importantly, ...you'll get laid!

    And gettin' laid is always cool!

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