Respect our national anthem

by Walter F. Rongey, Daily reader

I am neither a University of Minnesota student nor an alumnus. In fact, I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1983 and eventually served for 25 years in the United States Army. I was in attendance at the Minnesota-Illinois football game last weekend — our homecoming at Illinois. My family and I recently moved back to Illinois, and this year, I bought season football tickets.

I’m writing not about what happened on the field during the game, but about something that occurred before the game —specifically during the national anthem. As it happened, we had some Minnesota fans seated near us. This wasn’t unusual, since we’ve had opposing team fans sitting near us at all the games so far.

As a veteran and an American, I take great pride in standing for and singing along with the national anthem. The words contained therein are powerful and are meant to inspire great pride in our nation and the heroes who have given us so much over the years. Many have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom, and they deserve our utmost respect.

We were singing the National Anthem and came to the last line of the song, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” That line means so much. We are free, and it is because of the brave that we have such freedom. Nevertheless, several of the Minnesota fans inserted the word “Gophers” in place of the word “brave.”

My wife and I were completely shocked and appalled that anyone would do such a thing. I consider it a great affront to all the brave souls who have come before to desecrate our national anthem in such a way. I’m all for team spirit, but I believe there are lines that should not be crossed. This shouldn’t be read as an anti-Minnesota rant. I would be equally disturbed if I heard Illini fans doing likewise.

My wife spoke to one Gophers fan during the game. He told us that this practice has become commonplace at some Minnesota sporting events. I don’t know if that’s the case, but if it is, I would hope that organizations or individuals with sway would encourage the fans to forgo this practice. Our nation, veterans, military, public servants and citizens deserve the respect that the national anthem, sung in the correct manner, gives them.