When I started working for the University of Montana athletic department, I was in charge of all marketing operations for the women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams. A duty that came with this was arranging national anthem singers for all the home matches. I had to discover new talent while also luring back the top performers who did well the previous season.
Per my recommendation, the individuals who were especially good would advance from singing in front of 500-1,000 people at soccer and volleyball matches to performing in front of 7,000 people inside Dahlberg Arena at our Griz and Lady Griz basketball games.
During my career in collegiate athletics, I worked over 400 sporting events. Before I entered the professional world, I grew up going to games with my dad. In high school, I played sports all four years. Because of this, I have heard the national anthem performed live around 800 times. I have heard some awesome renditions and I have heard some sorry attempts. I feel I know a good Star Spangled Banner performance when I hear it.
This early part of this week has been dominated by Fergie’s national anthem performance at Sunday’s NBA All-Star game. Music critics blasted it. Social media users had a field day. Certain individuals felt offended. Basically, the overall consensus was that it was one of the worst renditions of the Star Spangled Banner in the history of the song.
Ready for my opinion?…
I didn’t think it was that bad.
No, it certainly does not rank up there with Whitney Houston’s 1991 legendary performance but I don’t think it belongs in the top five worst performances of all time either. To be honest, when I first started listening to Fergie’s performance, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. However, by the time she got to the home stretch of the song the wheels had started to fall off. But aside from the ugly ending, I truthfully don’t feel the first 75% of the song was catastrophic.
I further tested my feelings about her performance by doing this: I shut my eyes and listened. Without the expressions from the basketball players and the crowd, I was able to sit in the American Idol chair and listen objectively. When I had finished, I felt even more confident in my assessment that the performance wasn’t quite the train wreck everyone made it out to be.
Fergie took a big risk. To put it mildly, she put her own spin on what many say is one of the toughest songs to sing. But she finished the performance and, for the most part, she got all the words right. That alone should keep her out of the category of “Worst Anthem Performances Ever.” Was it a deserving performance for the NBA ALL-Star game? Probably not. But I will tell you this…I would have taken it any day back in 2010 prior to one of the soccer games at South Campus Stadium in Missoula. Don’t Blink.