One more piece of the pre-race Indy 500 festivities has been locked into place, with country superstar Martina McBride announced as this year's National Anthem singer. Personally, I think she'll do a great job. Of course, the National Anthem is one of the most scrutinized aspects of the pre-race ceremony in INDYCAR, especially for the 500.
Some people see it as excessive sensitivity or criticism, and yes, if Martina were to drop the ball on the National Anthem, there would be swift, angry social media commentary on the fact. Why? Maybe we're still all traumatized from Steven Tyler's word-changing rendition back in 2001. However, I like to think it goes a bit deeper.
On a Sunday in May each year, the Indianapolis 500 is home to over 300,000 people, a goodly number of which at any time are deep into varying degrees of inebriation. Even those that aren't are populous enough in number to great a sort of sustained, massive murmur as the stands fill leading to the race.
Yet, despite being a crowd of hundreds of thousands of individuals, there are moments where they come to respectful silence, almost as a single body. It's shocking to see so many people simply become quiet all at once, almost as if God himself pushed the "mute" button. The National Anthem is perhaps the largest example of this.
It is no coincidence the Indianapolis is held on Memorial Day weekend. Over the years, items such as military flyovers, cheering our returning troops as they take a lap around the track, and songs such as "America The Beautiful" and the more recent "God Bless America" have become a key aspect of the race festivities. Simply put, you cannot separate--nor should anyone wish to!--the Indy 500 from a healthy dose of patriotism. We are given so much and complain about such small things; it seems proper, that at least for one day, the generations of men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion for our liberty can be afforded these small measures of respect and honor, even as we realize they aren't enough to pay our insurmountable debt of gratitude.
So, if some of us seem sensitive when someone changes the words or forgets an entire verse to our National Anthem, please understand, it's not because we see ourselves as judges on "American Idol". It's because we genuinely care enough to see these measures of love and devotion carried out with the gravity and importance they deserve on a Memorial Day Weekend event. These things matter, and that is why we'll be wishing Martina McBride the best on Race Day, and thinking of our brothers, sisters, parents, and other loved ones in harm's way, as well as the blessings we have been given, while she belts out our National Anthem.