Any organized, respected sporting match just wouldn’t feel right without an opening rendition of the host country’s national anthem. Before soccer and rugby matches in Scotland, you’ll almost always hear a bagpiper or vocalist perform “Flower of Scotland,” getting the crowd singing along. While fans in the United States generally don’t sing along as loudly to our own anthem, the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” before any sporting match has remained a strong, unwavering tradition. Unfortunately, these performances have not always exactly made fans in the stands shed proud tears of red, white and blue. Indeed, for some of these performances, after the jets fly over the stadium or ball park in formation during the anthem’s climax, it makes one ponder whose idea it was not to call them back in a formation of a more aggressive nature.
We take a look at some of the worst performances of the national anthem at sporting events.
5.) R. Kelly, Taylor vs. Hopkins, 2005
This rendition was doomed from the start. Recording artist R. Kelly, for whatever reason, decided to perform a reggae-soul hybrid version of the national anthem before a middleweight boxing match between Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins. Complete with random, intermittent hand-claps, which may or may not have been attempts of finding a rhythm, the performance prompted fans in Las Vegas to boo Kelly, along with a few pity claps.
4.) Scott Stapp, Ford 400, 2005
Following in the footsteps of unfortunate anthem performances in 2005 is former Creed frontman Scott Stapp. Opening for NASCAR’s Ford 400, what ensued was a compilation of awkward breaks, cringing notes, intermittent growling and a few forgotten or misplaced words. The result did not prompt the booes R. Kelly gathered from his performance, but did prompt a few second looks from NASCAR drivers. One can only hope the F-16 Falcon flyover provided those in attendance with the relieving roar of the United States Air Force.
3.) Caroline Marcil, United States vs. Canada, 2005
One can’t help but feel bad for Carolien Marcil, who forgot the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” twice before leaving the ice to retrieve the lyrics. Granted, she is Canadian, and she likely did not grow up knowing the words to the extent her neighbors to the south did. Also granted, she kept trying, even when the crowd began booing. Deep booes turned into jubilant cheers, however, when the Quebec native returned, and immediately slipped on the ice, falling flat on her back.
2.) Carl Lewis, NBA Finals, 1993
The lyrics “rocket’s red glare” in Olympic champion Carl Lewis’ performance of the national anthem in the NBA Finals in 1993 may go down in the books as one of the worst moments in botched national anthem history. Before beginning the anthem, Lewis asked the crowd if it was “ready.” He just as well had asked that of himself instead, starting the anthem with a note as sour as any pickled vegetable you’d find in the deepest reaches of Germany. During “rocket’s red glare,” his voice cracked to the point of nails on a chalkboard. Obviously noting he was losing, or had lost, the crowd, he proclaimed, “Uh-oh! I’ll make up for it now.” Except he didn’t. Undboutedly planning on an epic finale, all that followed was more off-key notes, head-shaking and shame.
1.) Roseanne Barr, Reds vs. Padres, 1990
On the evening of July 25, 1990, it can be all but assumed a bald eagle fell from the sky, naval units in nearby San Diego Harbor began mobilizing and Carl Lewis would be safe from becoming the worst national anthem singer of all time three years later. No one is sure who thought it would be a grand idea to invite Roseanne Barr to sing the national anthem before a San Diego Padres game, but they likely went into hiding. With an obnoxiously fast tempo, seemingly intentional sour notes and the shameful screaming of many lines, Roseanne managed to earn a solidified first place in the race for awful anthem renditions. The crowd, which had booed Roseanne from about her sixth note onward, was then treated to a blatant spit after the performance’s merciful completion.