Please Rise and Remove Your Caps

“Please rise and remove your caps for the singing of our National Anthem.”

I’ve heard those words more times over the past month or so than I can count. As a sports reporter, nearly every night I am attending a game of some kind. Prior to each of those contests, the Star Spangled Banner will be played, with all in attendance standing and taking off their hats.

While that is no small task given the frigid temperatures in recent weeks, scan the arena and you likely won’t find a single covered head.

Hearing the Anthem with such frequency can start to hinder its meaning. I’ve fallen victim to zoning out for a minute or two, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

It has nothing to do with the arena or performance. Taconic’s Jackie Kays sings it beautifully at all volleyball and football games. Of course, THS has made it extra special at their games, screaming the song’s final word in unison, for hopefully obvious reasons.

At Wahconah Park for Pittsfield High football games, the marching band is usually there to play a rendition that is all-too familiar to a former tuba player like me. 

For some, the National Anthem can sometimes be boiled down to just another run-of-the-mill thing that has to happen in order for the game to begin. Which is a dangerous train of thought. I’m almost embarrassed to say that hearing it so often had made it begin to lose its meaning to me.

This past Monday, I walked up North Street to catch the Veteran’s Day Parade in Pittsfield. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it, just hear some bands and thank a veteran or two.

However, I wound up staying throughout the entire procession and listened to all the speeches at the memorial statue. The PHS band was on site to play the National Anthem, followed by a patriotic medley and finally Taps.

Instead of being just another repetition of America’s song, this wound up being refreshing, like lemonade on a hot day. Experiencing the Anthem in this setting, on that day, while standing amidst hundreds of servicemen and veterans, made the song seem new.

This Saturday I’ll be visiting two football games at Taconic and Pittsfield. I’m looking forward to the hard-hitting action in both contests, of course. But I’m also looking forward to rising, removing my cap and listening to the National Anthem twice.

For that, I have to thank the veterans.