National anthem belongs in prime time

National anthem belongs in prime time By Guest Commentary There is a ripple of discontent in the winter air over at The University of South Dakota. Some Coyote basketball fans are displeased over the school's decision to play the national anthem in a time slot so early in the proceedings that few people ever actually hear it.

What's more frustrating is that it is an easily avoidable situation.

The North Central Conference plays its league basketball games as doubleheaders, with the women usually playing first, followed by the men's game. At USD, the women's games start at 6 p.m. and the men tip off at 8 p.m. According to the USD game script for the games against the University of North Dakota, the national anthem (actually, a taped recording thereof) was played at 5:47 p.m., about 13 minutes before the beginning of the women's contest. The anthem was not repeated prior to the men's game two hours later.

Thus, at the time the anthem was played, there were probably less than 200 people in the DakotaDome. By the time the men's game tipped off more than two hours later, there was anywhere from 3,000-5,000 fans in the stands.

Although we appreciate USD's concerns for scheduling logistics, we believe the school should offer the national anthem at a time when it can be heard and appreciated by everyone. If that means cuing up and playing a recording of the song twice — before each game — then so be it. In fact, the university did it that way not too long ago; it was often performed live at least once and complemented by color guard. There is no reason the school could not play even a recording twice, especially given the fact that there are usually about 30 minutes in between the men's and women's basketball games. That's ample time to squeeze in a two-minute rendition of The Star Spangled Banner between the pep band performances and corporate audio promos.

To those upset with USD's current practice, the real issue here isn't time or scheduling. For them, the issue is respect for the flag and for the nation.

We won't delve deeply into the symbolism tied to the national anthem except to say that it goes beyond the mechanical ritual of playing the song before an athletic event. The anthem is a reminder of what this nation has been about, is about and always will be about so long as we don't take our freedoms and the price we've paid for them for granted. Written in the bleak chaos of war, it defines our character. One might argue this nation could use a little character building these days.

The playing of the national anthem before a basketball game may not change the world, but shifting it to some out-of-the-way time slot certainly diminishes its importance and relevance — and, thus, its meaning.

Certainly, that's not what USD officials intend or want. But that's how some fans are left feeling. It's something that can be easily corrected, and we think school officials would be smart and practical to do so at their earliest opportunity.

From the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan

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