This discussion doesn't seem to be going away no matter how much I wish it would since there's a lot of hockey to talk about right now. So I thought I'd at least give people a proper place to discuss it.
The cheering during the anthem is one of the most popular traditions at Blackhawk home games. I think you'd be hard pressed to find many die-hard fans that really dislike it but they're obviously out there.
First, a bit of history:
There are a couple different "origin" stories I've heard but this one seems to be the real one. From NHL.com:
Chicago's anthem tradition began during the 1985 conference finals against Edmonton. After dropping the first two games of the series on the road, Hawks fans entered Chicago Stadium on May 9 fully energized and ready to help their team get back into the series. The crowd was so excited they cheered all the way through the National Anthem — and the tradition stuck.
You can't ever really say that what causes a team to win - but it looks like it may have actually helped the Hawks. After being spanked in the first two games of the series the Hawks came back to win the next two at home before dropping the series in the following two games. The Oilers went on to win the cup that year for the second straight time.
Obviously, the tradition is alive and well almost 25 years later but lets clear something up right from the beginning. This tradition clearly did not start as a form of patriotism. It may have evolved into that but that is not the root of the cheering.
The cheering was a way to keep the crowd into the game and get the players excited. You can cite a huge number of articles where players mention how special the anthem is in Chicago as evidence of that.
Over time, the cheering has evolved into a new way to participate in the anthem. The song is notoriously difficult to sing and makes schmucks like myself sound horrible if I attempt to join in. Standing at attention feels very passive and ends up routine and boring. The solution - I clap, whistle and yell my heart out. When I'm cheering I feel I'm part of the song rather than a simple observer of a moment.
Is it disrespectful to the song/country/flag though? According to Title 36 of the United States Code:
171. Conduct during playing
During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.
While it's worth noting that the code does not mention that the anthem is a time of somber quiet reflection, if you're clapping and cheering, your hand is not over your heart as the code says it should be. So the question becomes, how strictly should we follow this code?
Many of the things in the code are things we take as common sense. For example, the flag should never be flown upside down unless as a signal of dire distress or it should never be allowed to touch the ground.
There are many other codes I'm sure are broken consistently - "When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street" or "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel" and "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."
There's also the ironic code for that calls for flags no longer fit for display to be burned in a dignified manner.
So I'm guessing most people don't even know this code exists in the first place. That doesn't make it right to break it. However, you're never going to get all Americans to follow every aspect of the code so should we make exceptions?
Yes, technically the cheering during the anthem breaks the code since we do not hold our hands over our hearts. However, I don't follow the line of thinking that this inherently means cheering equals disrespect.
As I said before, cheering makes me feel like I'm part of the song in a way I never ever get at other sporting events. I don't mind if I miss the anthems at other events but if I can't be part of the anthem at the United Center I feel I've missed an important aspect of the experience. When I cheer during the anthem I have not an ounce of malice or disrespect in my mind. My thoughts are on how special the moment is and how excited I am to be participating. Shouldn't that be considered when deciding if it's disrespectful?
With that I'll open the discussion on a special note. Leave out any liberal/conservative bickering. This issue isn't about Democrats, Republicans, Independents or any other political identity. This is about a Hawks tradition.
I'm also attaching a poll to gage people's responses if you don't want to join in the discussion on what is clearly a touchy subject. I'd especially love to get non-Hawks fans opinions on this matter. How do you interpret our tradition?
I'll be keeping an eye on this thread and will close comments for a "cool down" period if things get too heated - so play nice everyone.