Just about any sporting event, in any venue around the world, at any level will begin with one thing. The National Anthem.
Whether the Star Spangled Banner, Oh Canada, Advance Australia Fair, God Save the Queen or any of the other 190-odd national songs…the playing and singing of the national anthem is standard.
So how to you approach it on air? Do you air the national anthem? Or you skip it? Do you air some and not the rest? Here are some thoughts from a few sportscasting professionals.
In an ideal world, I would aim to get the tail end of Oh Canada on air after my pre-game commercial break. If timed right, I would have about 30 seconds or more to ad-lib after my coaches interviews before the national anthem began, which would allow me to wrap the post-game show and get set for the game.
Then a 60 second commercial break would usually bring me back for the last few bars of the song which I would air through either a PA feed (at home) or a crowd mic (on the road).
There will be times where I get my timing all wrong and my coaches interview either finishes during the anthem, or too close to it for me to wrap and throw to break…so then I’m stuck and air the anthem in full.
Last season we were set up in our pre-game to avoid it. We weren’t miked up to the PA, so we would go to break ahead of the anthem. Sometimes we’d come back early (depending on if the anthem singer ran a bit on the longer side) and catch the last few notes. We wouldn’t go to the point where we would cover with another commercial or promo.
Usually I take a break during the national anthem to get more commercials in, not because we are avoiding it but because it gives us a break on air and let’s us stand in silence in respect in the stadium.
Mostly it just comes down to technology and it not coming out clear on our broadcast. It’s hard because I handle it differently for different stations I work for because of their equipment and it’s challenges or limits but love to air it when possible.
Stephen Wade Gregg
I am radio only. Handle high school football and high school and college (NAIA) basketball here in Dalton, GA. I usually don’t play it over the air….I am using that time to play commercial spots….always crunched for time to get in spots…not being disrespectful, but doesn’t seem necessary. Have been doing it as long as I remember.
I am only in charge of my own microphone of course, and 99.9% of the time (I have called games 10 diff places) my microphone is not on during the anthem. This includes D1, D2, and D3… I think honestly it is the discretion of the show and what they want to show. It is usually played from a pre-recorded version… if I was in charge though I would probably just air it to be honest. Even with all of the ‘protests’ that have taken place over the past few years, we are in America and think it should be able to be seen by online audiences.
We air the entire anthem but we use an in studio recording to avoid variables at game site. Our version is recording from the US Army Band and it airs about five minutes before kick off, and right before tip off or first pitch. We have a special billboard that announces it and I have even had listeners send pictures of themselves and kids standing with their hand over their hearts while it airs on the radio.
Bottom line for us is we are in the very conservative west Texas. My dad and grandfathers served, as did my News Directors father and our owners father and son. We know that America is not perfect but we also know that we would not be able to do what we do with out the free society created by those men and women who have carried our flag into battle. It seems the least we can do to honor those people and we as a station are very proud to air it and I still get chills everytime.
I have no problem airing the national anthem but since I am broadcasting on the radio I try to avoid it completely. First, I like to be respectful of the anthem, stand and salute during those 90-100 seconds, so I will always hit a break as the anthem is set to begin and return once it’s done. Second, on radio, I don’t want any silence.
Although you can hear the anthem through the radio airwaves, I would like to avoid that in case a casual listener is flipping through the dial and decides to not listen because all he or she is hearing is faded music. Lastly, if it airs, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes when breaks might be a little shorter than usual or if there is a delay in starting or ending the anthem, we might catch it on air. If so, we just stay silent until it’s over and go about our business.
I usually am live before the anthem is played or performed, and at this point I don’t have any advertisers to plug during an “anthem break”, so I just leave the camera and the mic up. If I had sponsors, I’d likely only air the anthem if there was to be a live performance. If a recorded version was to be played over the PA, I’d likely only broadcast it if there was a specific reason to be live beforehand, like a moment of silence.
One example of this came last year when President George H. W. Bush passed away just before a UCLA Ice Hockey game; we aired the moment of silence and stayed live through the recorded anthem. Another factor is that I typically don’t have a separate box, and the US flag is right next to where I stand, so I choose to participate in the ritual rather than have everyone looking in my general direction while I work on something else. And finally, with all the chaos that surrounds the pregame setup, the anthem gives me a chance to breathe and calm down before we drop the puck or toss the first pitch.