On Whitney and the Anthem

In comments to the previous post on Whitney Houston, Kerry asks why I didn’t post the video of Houston’s now-iconic performance of The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV. It’s a fair question, worthy of a couple of answers.

First of all…the performance wasn’t truly live. She was singing, with the mike turned off, while her pre-recorded performance, great as it is, was played over the stadium speakers and to the broadcast audience. She wasn’t lip-syncing, but I have a hard time seeing that performance as a truly live performance.

Second: well, this may be stupid. But I often have a hard time separating events from one another, and that anthem performance is irrevocably linked with one of the most painful outcomes I’ve ever experienced for one of my sports teams. (The only one that hurts more to remember, down to this day, is the Atlanta Braves’ Game Seven defeat of my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the ninth in the 1992 National League Championship Series.) I hear Whitney Houston’s anthem, and so much more floods through my mind: botched tackles. A heroic game by Thurman Thomas, to no avail. And yes…Wide Right.

Because the next three Super Bowl losses were all by much greater margins, they’re easier to remember for me. Super Bowl XXV, though, is the one they should have won. They should have been champions when that night ended, and they weren’t, and what’s worst is that as things unfolded, that was their best shot at it.

This all probably sounds pretty trite, but I have very powerful memories of that game. The Bills’ Super Bowl runs all happened (except for the last one) when I was at college, 800 miles away from home. The Buffalo Bills were home. When I sat down to watch that game, it wasn’t just to watch my favorite team; it was in hopes and expectations that when it ended, I’d be sharing the same emotional high that everyone back home would be feeling. Instead…I got a kick in the gut.

You know what the worst thing was that night? I had a sectional rehearsal for one of my musical ensembles that night, scheduled for 9:30 or so. I’d told my section leader beforehand, “Look, I’ll be there, but not one second before that game ends. Because it’s the Bills.” So the damn game ended, and I had to get up and head out for a damned rehearsal, pretending that I was just fine and ready to get back to work. Which was, frankly, the very last thing I wanted to do.

I’ve been through an awful lot of shit since the night of Super Bowl XXV, so it may seem silly to still feel icky feelings about that night and how it ended. But I’m not really wired to separate entire events from things that happened in life outside of it, which is why as a rule, my memories of Whitney Houston’s Star-Spangled Banner aren’t terribly happy ones.

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One Response to On Whitney and the Anthem

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    Yeah, for me, it was a bit yucky because we were in the midst of the frickin' war…

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