Throughout the years there have been countless performances of our National Anthem (The Star Spangled Banner) at sporting events across the country.
Some have been outstanding—I heard Allison Krauss & Union Station perform it at a Nashville Predators playoff game and it gave me goose bumps. Many more performances of the song have been just "good" or merely "okay."
A few, however, are just mind-blowingly bad. I'm talking "so bad you'll be telling your grandkids you were there" awful.
This article is an attempt to run down the best of the worst in National Anthem performances throughout the years. The list is limited to bad renditions of our country's theme song that I could find video for somewhere online (mostly YouTube). So if you know of an awful anthem that isn't on this list, it's probably missing because I couldn't find video evidence of its horrendousness.
So, without further ado, I present to you... The Nine Worst National Anthem Performances At Sporting Events (that I could find video evidence of):
#9. Guitar Boy
See, this is the perfect example of how you can take a perfectly good singing voice, and still have the song turn out poorly because you got too cute with it. This fellow decides to strum his guitar along with his singing—a decision I'm guessing he regrets now. The guitar is distracting. It's choppy. It sounds like he hits a lot of bad notes on the guitar. And it completely ruins the enjoyment of the song. Check it out.
#8. Every High School Football Game National Anthem You've Ever Seen
I have this theory that performances of The National Anthem at high school athletic events are all horrible. They certainly were when I was in high school. So this one example is just a stand in for other examples. There's a poor gal singing who is quite overpowered by another gentleman who is supposedly doing a duet with her, so I kind of feel bad for her. But at the same time, who decided this song was a good candidate for a duet? It's hard enough for one person to sing it, let alone two. The video is here.
#7. Some Guy That Marginally Looks Like Cuba Gooding Jr.
I have no idea who this guy is, or why the person who posted the video thinks he looks like Cuba Gooding Jr. But he's definitely bad. Maybe he had a bad night. Or maybe he's bad all the time. But I could barely make it through this version of The National Anthem. And he was so confident at the start, too. It's worse than some of the American Idol auditions I've seen of folks singing The Star Spangled Banner. Here... go check it out.
#6. Some Girl At a Boxing Match
This girl isn't famous, as far as I know. And I don't follow boxing at all, so I have frame of reference as to whether these boxers are even famous. But I do know this: the poor girl doesn't sing very well—at least not in this instance. She's cute and all, but she does a very poor man's Christina Aguilera in this video. Check it out.
#5. Contest Winner Natalie
This poor gal won a Toyota-sponsored contest called "Get the Feeling of a Star," which was voted on by fans. She won the chance to sing The National Anthem at an NBA basketball game—specifically a Trailblazers/Mavericks game. And I really, really feel bad for her. She seems young and just very nervous, so it's hard to mock her. And she ends up forgetting her lyrics, poor thing. But what's extra-amazing about this video is when Maurice Cheeks, the Blazers coach, decides to step in and help the poor girl. Stepping up to her, and with much encouragement, he actually sings the next line for her so she'll know where to go with the song. Then he stands next to her and sings along with her for the rest of the song—encouraging the crowd to join in as well. Cheeks is my new hero, and this was a class-act thing for him to do. See the video here.
#4. Michael Bolton
This is apparently Game Four of the 2003 American League Championship Series in Boston. So Michael Bolton is this fairly significant recording artist. He's had lots of hit records and has performed live many times. And yet he somehow manages to forget the lyrics to The National Anthem. Nice going Michael. What's even funnier, though, is that when he loses his place, he lifts up the palm of his hand and reads it. Then he continues. So, let me see if I get this straight. You knew you were going to forget the words to the song... so as a failsafe, you wrote them on the palm of your hand? Wow. That's almost epic in it's lameness. Poor guy. Obviously a great voice. Just not a great memory. See the video here--especially the 46-second mark.
#3. Forgetful Fall-Down Girl
Poor girl performing the anthem at a hockey game. She seems nice enough. But she forgets the words to the song just seconds after starting it. Then she stops. And the crowd gives her all kinds of grief. So she starts again, but loses it in the same place. Then she walks away—leaves the ice entirely! I thought she was just done; I thought she was giving up. But then she comes back, and with a piece of paper—so she apparently left to go get her lyrics cheat sheet. But on her way back on the ice, she slips on the first step and falls on her behind. So at that point, she just leaves for good. Boom. Instant YouTube fame. It's too bad, really, because she has a nice voice. This is one of the only ones on the list that I actually feel bad for. See her sad, spectacular train wreck here.
#2. Roseanne Barr
In 1990, Roseanne, at the height of her popularity, when her sitcom was one of the top-rated programs on television, was inexplicably invited to sing The National Anthem at a San Diego Padres game. The results were somewhat predictable. Roseanne warbled her way through the song, sounding exactly as you would expect Roseanne Barr to sound when singing. And she famously finished it off by spitting and grabbing her crotch. Classy. Some poor Padres front office employee lost his job after this, I'm sure. Watch Roseanne be manly here.
#1 Carl Lewis
Yes, that Carl Lewis. Gold-medal-winning Olympian Carl Lewis. Seems he fancied himself somewhat of an R&B singer, and decided to prove it to the world by singing the most difficult song to sing ever written. He misses some notes here and there, and I'm not going to lie—it's quite amusing. But what truly makes Lewis' rendition of The National Anthem the number one worst of all time is his mid-song apology. After the crowd grows restless at his butchering of the song, Carl pauses mid-song to promise "I'm going to make it up to y'all now." He then proceeds to sing the ending of the song even more poorly than the beginning, making up exactly nothing to the offended eardrums of the fans.
Note to self: if you're going to screw up the nation's theme song, and then apologize for it and promise to make it up to us, you've got to deliver the goods, and not just continue singing poorly. An absolute classic. Watch Carl in all his glory right here.
Not eligible for this list, because they are singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" instead of The National Anthem, are these three shining examples of fail from William Hung, Ozzy Osborne, and Jeff Gordon. Too. Much. Fun.
So there you go. I hope you enjoyed reliving (or discovering) some of the most memorable bad performances of The National Anthem. My advice? If you're asked to sing this song to open a sporting event (or any other event), run away. Run very far away. You can't screw up a song in front of thousands of fans if you never agree to sing it in the first place.