How do you handle the national anthem?

Not long ago, a minor league baseball broadcaster started working for a new team. For as long as anyone could remember, the team had traditionally broadcast the pre-game national anthem. The new broadcaster’s practice, though, had always been to break for commercials during the anthem.

The station left the decision up to him. He asked my advice. Here is what I replied…

I tend to side with you. I used to go to break during the anthem. Ultimately, it’s a small thing not worth rocking the boat over. Airing the anthem does not compromise the quality of your broadcast.

When I took my first job in McPherson, KS, I moved the daily school lunch menu and obituaries out of my news block. To me, coming from San Diego, including that info in the news block sounded small town/small market. I wanted my broadcasts to sound big time.

The kickback was immediate and loud. I quickly reverted to what my audience was used to.

Not airing the anthem after many years of doing so will tick off more of your audience than you expect. Besides, it’s never a mistake to err on the side of patriotism.

That brings me to some questions for you. What do you do with the national anthem on your broadcasts? What other factors should be considered when deciding whether to air then anthem in your pregame? I will be grateful if you will please leave your answers below. I promise to read all of them.

9 Comments

  1. Logan Anderson

    To me it depends on how you are picking up the actual sound. I’ve listened to some people just leave their headset/crowd mic up and have the anthem picked up as ambient noise. This usually doesn’t sound good. I’ve heard others who ran a cable from the mixer with the singers mic to their equipment and it sounded really good. I don’t have any strong preference as to whether it should or should not be played, just do it right if you decide to go forward. My two cents.

  2. Andrew Lacy

    Football and baseball I always go to commercial because I won’t be able to pick it up well anyway. Basketball and volleyball sometimes I will because in a gym it’s louder and easier to pick up. Other factors for me are how heavy my commercial load is for that game, whether it’s being played by a band, sung by a student or in some cases just a recording played over the PA. I’ll always break during the recordings. For the others I really just go by feel.

  3. J.d. Byars

    For football I purposely format the commercial break and billboard game open to only cover the first half to 2/3 of the actual anthem and let it serve as my rejoin ambient bumper and patriotically back sell it with some emotion or respect to the band’s superb rendition…taking me into a feature. So much of 2 hours worth of pregame is sold and sponsored that every increment is precious but I indeed make sure a portion of it is heard…always the ending because it has the applause and roar with it. That’s the way I structure it. For basketball I carry the whole thing unless it’s a road game with a very unusual pregame timing sheet that makes it fall in one of recorded and pre produced elements. Baseball is also usually last 3rd only as that pregame is very short as well…crowded with breaks and features.

  4. Victor Anderson

    Myself personally, I always keep it on the anthem as I am already live on the air. If you go to break, you run the risk of being back on the air too soon. It’s especially hard with internet only broadcasts.

  5. Bill Oliver

    Doing high school and NAIA/juco games, cover the anthem.

    Starting with a new station, run the entire format by the person who hired you. And If you are inheriting a sidekick, ask them too.

    And a personal note to Jon about McPherson: I’m guessing Claude was the first to notice, then Diane, then Jerry. Bob probably heard it from one of the others because he was on the phone or tooting his bicycle horn. Great times!

  6. Cam Boon

    I play the anthem and starters over my airwaves for radio. For streams, we go to commercial.

  7. Jim Sewell

    I do HS PBP & always air the national anthem. Just seems like the right thing to do. In baseball, I air the anthem then have time for a 60 sec break right after. After the break, I still have time to give the defense & pitcher stats before first pitch.

  8. Steve. Major

    I do play by play for HS softball, baseball, football, & girls & boys basketball. I always play the National Anthem – former Air Force, it is the only thing to do. Many times the Air Force Jr. ROTC will do the color guard presentation of the flag. I like to high light that for the local high school(s). I also thinks it adds to the broadcast. Sometimes there are students that sing the National Anthem and I like to tell them they can go back to the archived broadcast and watch their performance.

    • Jon Chelesnik

      Hi Steve — that is super cool. With you being a former military man, it especially makes sense that playing the anthem is close to your heart. I especially like that the ROTC sometimes participates and that you highlight them when they do. Nice touch.

      Thank you for serving our country.

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