A Strategy To Take Back Our National Song

God Bless AmericaTwo of the world’s most beautiful national anthems will be played tonight at Verizon Center, but only one will be profaned. Tonight, Montreal’s hockey club and its press corps will, sadly, be re-introduced to the Washington virus infecting our national anthem: when the surly, sauced, and stupid sully the American National Anthem with Baltimore’s bastardization. Understandably, some among the visitors will join thousands of others in attendance and react with embarrassment and revulsion.
So we pose this question to you, as a possible strategy to dislodge the firmly-entrenched blight of the “O”:

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57 Responses to A Strategy To Take Back Our National Song

  1. It’s no secret that I loathe the “O” shout. While I certainly prefer our anthem to God Bless America, if a few months of using that song as an anthem replacement helps the “O” wither and die then I’m all in favor of that strategy.

  2. maruk says:

    I don’t think this would work, but I hate the “O” so much that I’m willing to give anything a shot. There are even clowns down here in Richmond who yell it out. To me, it’s unbelievably stupid and disrespectful.

  3. This is an insidious virus; I’m afraid “a few months” won’t eradicate what has been a pernicious pattern dating back decades. I’m thinking the antibiotic requires years of consumption. But what a painless, side-effect-free remedy. And what a worthy one.

  4. Angstboy says:

    I’m from Baltimore and gladly participate in the “O” chants while at Orioles or Ravens games. That said, DC obviously isn’t Baltimore and I shake my head in irritation every time I attend a Caps game and anticipate it’s appearance. Now that the Nats are in town, what’s the point? Anyway, I still voted “No” because the national anthem is the national anthem and shouldn’t be replaced. I was annoyed when they did it at the Winter Classic and I’d be annoyed if they did it at Caps games. The SSB is just a better song… more anthem-like, if you ask me. Leave it.

  5. amy says:

    I beleive that it is incredibly disrepectful for the loud insertion of the “O” during the National Anthem (and I am from Baltimore. I don’t like it during O’s games but at least understand the correlation. Don’t get it at all at Caps games!). That said, while God Bless America is one of my favorite patriotic songs, it is not the anthem of our country. We should not change that which reprents us nationwide because of those who do not understand the disrepect that it employs by emphasizing the vowel. Two wrongs do not make a right.

  6. Amy – ‘America the Beautiful’ being a “wrong” when sung before a game would surely arrive as news in Philadelphia, where for years Kate Smith made it famous before Flyers’ games, and where a video of her rendition of it airs still there at times. I regard Philadelphia as a site of no small patriotic achievement in American history.

  7. steph says:

    I would bet that 75% of the people yelling “O” have no clue why they are yelling it – they heard it done at a game, thought it was a tradition and added their voices to the fray. We need an announcement before the games explaining the origins of the “O” – maybe that would get people to stop.

  8. WFY says:

    This problem took care of itself at Nats games pretty quickly in 2005, so I have hope that we can rid the Verizon Center of it as well.

  9. WFY says:

    Actually, I didn’t really completely take care of itself, there was some public scolding in the stands and in print, so that helped a lot.
    I’m glad you guys are bringing it up.

  10. jess says:

    I hate the “Oooooo!” with a passion but I don’t think it will work.
    Also, we were up in Buffalo at the Winter Classic and they sung God Bless America instead of the National Anthem. Everyone looked uncomfortable during God Bless America — in deep contrast to everyone who had sung along with O Canada just 2 minutes earlier (yes, they did both anthems even though both teams were US).

  11. Gustafsson says:

    Historical Footnote:

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was recognized for official use by the Navy in 1889 and the President in 1916, and was made the national anthem by a Congressional resolution on March 3rd 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 USC ?Ǭß301).
    Prior to 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom. Most prominent among them, “Hail Columbia!” served as the national anthem de facto from Washington’s time and through the 18th and 19th centuries. Following the War of 1812 and the outbreak of subsequent American wars, other songs would emerge to compete for popularity at public events, among them “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

  12. Nik B says:

    If you can’t beat em, join em… why not join in, but add a “vie” at the end as a tribute to our $124 million man?

  13. hockeygrl76 says:

    I hate the O as much as anyone but I just don’t feel comfortable with not playing The Star Spangled Banner…it almost seem unamerican. Maybe you guys should tell Tarik to write a blurb about it in the Post….

  14. rich says:

    Worth a try because its so annoying, but I can hear it now: “…to the OOOOOHHHH-ceans, white with foam…”

  15. Scott says:

    In Kansas City, the do …” the home of the…CHIEFS” for all the sports. Sickening.

  16. amy says:

    pucksandbooks- Then maybe you should move to Philly and become a Flyers fan?!?

  17. Greg says:

    I think some do it in “honor” of Ovechkin. Even if it’s in his honor it still makes me cringe

  18. Mike Shwedick says:

    amen brother…we have the lamest singers also, i like caleb but bitsy…sweet jesus

  19. Greg, I remember some folks suggesting changing the “O” to “Ovie” when he arrived — but since the “O” precedes Ovechkin by many years I don’t think most folks do it with him in mind.

  20. anonymous says:

    Speaking of the anthem, Bitsy is singing again tonight, so we’re treated to more:
    Jose can you see..”
    Hat the twilight’s last …”
    Whore the ramparts …”
    Hand the rockets …”
    Ho say does that ..”
    and as an extra bonus…
    Ho Canada …”

  21. I miss Bob MacDonald (sp?) singing the anthem. He was terrific.

  22. The Ovechkin allusion claim seems a stretch to me. To say the least. He’s known in these parts as Ovie, or the Gr8, but never, as best as I can recall, as the Big O. I also think to the extent that some Caps’ fans would want to call him out during the anthem, they’d offer up something original, rather than copying Peter Angelos’ lackeys.

  23. Smitty says:

    I know I’m in the minority, but I really don’t mind the ‘O’. That’s not to say I like it, it just doesn’t bother me. It’s not uncommon… There’s a word that the Thrashers crowd yells out that has to do with a minor league baseball team that was moved out of town a couple of decades ago. The Chicago crowd just yells at full blast through the entire thing. In fact, it bothers me less than smattering of fans yelling out cheers and taunting the opposing team during the last verse. That to me is disrespectful.
    Another thing that drives me up a wall is when the anthem singer pronounces it “o’er the per-ol-ous fight,” instead of “per-il-ous.” Drives me mad, and 90% of them do it.
    I like God Bless America and would have no problem moving to it – Philly did this with Kate Smith singing it for a long time, and I don’t think anyone thinks less of them for it (there are plenty of reasons to think less of the Phlyerscum, but it ain’t one of them).
    And Bitsy… Oh, Bitsy. I love you for trying, but good lord.

  24. Kevin says:

    OK. I’m clearly in the minority here. I’ll admit, I’m an “O” yeller, I’m a lifetime O’s fan from Silver Spring. Tar and feather me.
    That said, you guys sure make a huge deal over something that lasts for less than a second. It’s a whole lot less offensive than some of the things I’ve heard in response.

  25. NS2NOVA says:

    Being a recent transplant I’ve always wondered what the ‘O’ was all about.
    It’s just as bad with Dallas fans shouting Star, Atlanta fans shouting Night, or Braves fans shouting Brave.

  26. @Kevin: Shouting back at “O” yellers is just as bad as the “O” itself. I just sort of roll my eyes and cringe a bit rather than responding with profanities or whatever.
    @NS2NOVA: Agreed, the DC area is not alone by any means. But I’d rather our city weren’t lumped in with others who can’t stand still and shut the hell up for two minutes.

  27. billy says:

    I loathe God Bless America at sporting events. I dislike the “O” as much as the next guy, but GBA is NOT our national anthem, and should never displace it.
    I am still angry at the NHL for playing GBA in lieu of the Star Spangled Banner at the Winter Classic, even after they played O Canada. It was shameful.
    In short: NO NO NO NO!!!

  28. vt caps fan says:

    I use to yell ‘O’. I stopped in college. I don’t know why I started it, I just did it cause thats what everyone else did. I only stopped because I learned that it came from O’s games, and my bitterness towards Angelos forced me to stop it. — At least I stopped.
    I think the majority of fans don’t know why they do it, but they yell it because its a ‘DC/B-more’ thing. I know other places that do something similar – uva students yell out ‘Hoos’. KC Chief’s fans do the ‘CHIEF’.
    I don’t think by changing the song will make it stop; Because that one day they do play the National Anthem, they’ll still yell ‘O’. Plus G.B.A. doesn’t give goosebumps like the anthem does.
    Oh and Bob McDonald was at a game a few weeks ago (I think it was Toronto game– not sure).

  29. strungout says:

    Yay! Something else to complain about!

  30. GiveItARest says:

    Oh please. Give it a rest. If you’re going to chastise the fans, first chastise the players who start skating around during “Land of the free”, 10-15 seconds before the anthem is completely done. Stop whining.

  31. Drew says:

    I grew up in the early 80s and attended 100x more Caps games in Landover than O’s games on 33rd. Thus, no surprise that I believed the “O” was a Caps tradition, along the same lines as shouting out “Pete” whenever Peeters made a save, or trying to get the decibel meter over 100 so the blue lights would blink.
    I never thought of the “O” as disrespectful or spurious because 1) it’s just a hockey game, and 2) who exactly are we “disrespecting” when we carve out an esoteric tradition like this? Each other? Ourselves? I am still an American when I walk out of Verizon, and so are (most of) you. And I sure don’t spend time thinking about the “O” after a hotly-contested hockey game. Why do you?
    I think we would benefit by having a sense of humor about traditions, even the ones that evolved via unorthodox means. Chances are good that the Nats’ presence will eventually eliminate it anyway.

  32. Kevin says:

    @OC, I agree with you, I just think the hate is a bit disproportionate for yelling a letter.
    Love the blog, by the way. I’m an OFB junkie. You guys got a shout-out on Elliot the other day.

  33. TG says:

    I just think it’s amazing that it ONLY happens at Caps games. At Nationals games they get booed. At Wizards games there’s usually one or two people who yell it, but when they realize that no one else did they look all embarassed. At United games, it’s pretty much the same as for Wizards, meaning a few idiots, but most people don’t yell it.

  34. Awful lot of thoughtful perspectives shared in this thread. An individual OFB thank you to all who contributed them.
    Some concluding (?) perspective from me: We in Washington may have a greater sensitivity on this subject precisely because we are the nation’s capital. But speaking only for myself, I find the ongoing abuse/license/crank whatever you want to term it troubling for the extent to which it’s perpetrated among so many men and women who live in our community and defend us in uniform. The Capitals do a magnificent job of honoring our military heroes, and often I see them seated at the team’s games in appreciable numbers. I never see a one of them engage in the anthem antics. Perhaps that ought to be instructive.

  35. Gustafsson says:

    Well said, pucksandbooks.

  36. Laura says:

    Has BOB performed at all this season? I was looking forward to making the games vs Canadian teams to hear him sing both anthems.

  37. Gustafsson says:

    @OC & Laura,
    Bob McDonald did sing at the Toronto game last week. So he’s made at least one appearance.

  38. O's stink says:

    The “O” is stupid. Its fine to ramp up the national anthem with something to keep it spunky. (Let’s be honest, its not the great athem out there. Its a bad tune and pretty warlike in its lyrics.) But, Baltimore is a second rate and low class city. Its at best a bad suburb of DC. Anything we can do to distance ourselves from the cretins of the harbor is a good thing. DC=intellegent, hard working people. Baltimore=formerly smart people, now not so smart.

  39. pepper says:

    Its amazing to me that this issue generates so many comments.
    In any event, I suppose a patriot with a certain appreciation of history would particularly favor singing the SSB over any other composition when facing a Canadian team.

  40. No says:

    Let’s stick with the national anthem since there’s no reference to God in it a hundred times. I’d be offended if I had to stand for a song about a god I don’t believe in.

  41. AmericaTheBeautiful says:

    How about America the Beautiful? You’d only be offended 99 times less.

  42. Obviously Anon says:

    My take on it is don’t play it at all, or play the team fight song since that is what the playing of the Anthem has become. Please note my reasons are rooted in the deepest love for my country, as I’m disgusted that very few show the Flag and the Anthem the proper respect they deserve.
    It’s a minor miracle when men take off their hats during the Anthem, and I think it’s telling that people are requested to do so.
    I would not stand for “God Bless America,” as it’s not the anthem. The only reason I stand for it at baseball games is because MLB has mandated it be played during the 7th inning stretch, and I for damn sure don’t take off my hat for it.
    For what it’s worth, the playing of the Anthem before a baseball game started during WWI, as a show of patriotism. After the war, MLB said it didn’t have to be played anymore, but the public demanded it be brought back.

  43. Obviously Anon says:

    Forgot to mention one thing: I noticed Slapshot the other night during the anthem. When we got to the “O” part, he raised his arms, as if to encourage the fans to shout.
    Make of that what you will, but shouting almost seems sanctioned by the team.

  44. blanket says:

    I’m with Drew. At this point, shouting “O” is just something that (some) Caps fans do, and have done for quite a while. It’s one of those little traditions that every team’s fans have, love them or hate them. It’s like whoop-whooping Murphy or Gonchar, or chanting “Let’s go Caps.” I think the national anthem is durable enough to withstand the supposed “disrespect.”

  45. Chimaera says:

    I’m a reformed “O” person. I’m still an Orioles fan, even though they’re awful (death to Angelos!)
    I used to yell it all the time when there were no Nats. Now that there is another awful baseball team that some like, I don’t.

  46. @ Obviously Anon:
    If it’s true that Slapshot is encouraging the O shout, well that’s just appalling.

  47. Dezlboy says:

    You will get so sick of God Bless America you won’t believe it! Instead, “This Land is Your Land.” Woody Guthrie wrote it because he was sick of hearing Kate Smith.

  48. DebCapsFan says:

    I agree with Drew. I’ve never thought the National Anthem at a hockey game was such a sacred spiritual thing. It’s a hockey game. They could sing nothing. So many people butcher the song anyway. While I don’t say the O, I think the people who yell at the people that do are even more stupid.

  49. StarsTom says:

    It’s getting worse in Dallas with “Oh say can JUSSI! (Jokinen)..and don’t forget, the word STAR is sung TWICE! (and if we’re really lucky, some drunk will follow the word RED with WINGS SUCK!
    That makes FOUR yells in Big D!
    Go Stars!

  50. odessasteps says:

    At everyone’s favorite AHL stadium, they yell “GO BEARS” before the end of the anthem.
    Personally, I would prefer no anthem.

  51. Gustafsson says:

    Obviously Anon wrote:
    Forgot to mention one thing: I noticed Slapshot the other night during the anthem. When we got to the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìO?¢‚Ǩ? part, he raised his arms, as if to encourage the fans to shout.
    Make of that what you will, but shouting almost seems sanctioned by the team.

    I was sitting in the lower bowl at the end where the Caps defend twice. Slapshot was in front of me. At the time of the offending moment in the anthem, Slapshot DOES in fact, raise his wings/arms in an encouraging gesture.
    I would completely understand if offended fans complained to the Caps.

  52. MikeZ says:

    I, personally, would rather hear no anthem. I have no loyalty to this country or its people, and I think it’s a complete waste of time.
    On the other hand, I unabashedly yell the “O” during every anthem I hear, regardless of event. It’s not like there’s much to be “profaned” in the first place. It’s a drinking song with lyrics about a battle, FFS! What kind of message is that supposed to send, that we’re a country of war-loving drunks? I mean, accuracy aside, I really don’t see much worthy of anyone’s respect in the anthem.

  53. Grooven says:

    I’m no fan of the “O”, but it has nothing to do with national disrespect. It has to do with DC vs Baltimore (and Angelos ruining the Orioles etc). I shout “Vech-Kin” after everyone else yells “O”.
    I checked with some season ticket holders who are military to get their take on it. If they (these specific ones who sit near me, not a survey of the arena) felt it was disrespectful, I would stop. They encouraged me. They see the “O” the same as I do and I’m making it DC- and hockey-related at least.
    I have also been told that part of the reason the yelling doesn’t bother them is that they fought for and defended our right to do so.
    And while they won’t yell, they do not object and have even encouraged my yelling.
    On a broader issue, I am still not convinced that: 1. – the Star Spangled Banner needs to be sung at every game. 2. – another song couldn’t be sung in its stead. 3. – the Star Spangled Banner should be the National Anthem.

  54. nadir says:

    A third standby song that they could use would be “America”, but that is put to the same tune as “God save the Queen/King”. Ick.
    I am sure if “God Save America” replaced the “SSB”, you would no doubt have people up and arms and protesting the use of “God” in the national anthem. The “SSB” is the benign compromise that doesn’t really offend people.
    I wish the “O” would go the way of what has happened at the Nationals games. Anything remotely wreaking of Peter Angelos’ formaldehyde. I won’t even watch MASN.

  55. pgreene says:

    someone connected just needs to have them make an announcement before the anthem about how stupid it is. do that for 4 or 5 home games in a row and i’m betting it disappears.

  56. Thunderweenie says:

    Hey, at least no one flies your flag upside down, like they did to the Canadian flag in Atlanta during the 92 World Series….

  57. andrew says:


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