To cheer or not to cheer: The national anthem

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Chicago Blackhawks fans celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers in preseason action. (Liam Richards / AP)

Chicago Blackhawks fans celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers in preseason action. (Liam Richards / AP)

When the announcement comes for all hats to be removed for the singing of the national anthem, the expected silence that follows as “The Star Spangled Banner” begins isn’t what you get when you rise to your feet at the United Center for a Blackhawks game. Instead, the first notes from the organ elicit loud cheers and clapping from those who know the routine.

It continues for the entirety of the anthem, getting louder when Jim Cornelison does his iconic point to the American flag and from there the noise increases until the last notes fade. Although some don’t participate in this tradition, they do know what to expect. But a question that surrounds this tradition is whether it is a sign of disrespect or a sign of pride for the country.

Although no one knows for sure if the tradition might have started earlier, many cite the 1985 conference finals against the Edmonton Oilers in the old Chicago Stadium as the first time the goose bump-inducing cheers started. According to an article on NHL.com, losing the first two games of series on the road, the fans came to the stadium with a new energy and cheered all the way through the anthem for the first time.

Since then, a new stadium has been built filled with a new generation of fans and a new soloist has taken over the responsibility of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But as years pass, the tradition has stayed the same.

In the atmosphere of a packed stadium, there is always a lot of excitement channeled into yelling and clapping. The fact that this starts during the national anthem isn’t meant to be a sign of disrespect. Instead, it’s a sign of support.

“I think it brings more energy to the game,” Brad Egeberg, a sophomore accounting major said.

He added that he believes cheering during the anthem is “more like celebrating America.” However, Egeberg does understand that some people might find it disrespectful or offensive.

Dominick Passannante, a freshman majoring in marketing and finance, said it might be disrespectful “because it’s our national anthem” but also it’s not “because it’s at a sporting event.” Therefore, the event might make it more or less acceptable for cheering during the anthem.

Freshman Jake Norman said he would only cheer at the end of the anthem, never in the middle of it. But he said it’s disrespectful for a different reason. “I think it’s disrespectful to the performer, not necessarily to the country,” Norman said.

Perhaps to some performers it might be annoying that fans cheer so loud you can’t even hear them sing, but Cornelison told NHL.com in a 2008 article, “I love hearing from veterans that I brought tears to their eyes.”

If veterans can be filled with such strong emotions, what makes cheering during the anthem so wrong? The tradition might not be that far off from when fans take a moment during the game to stand and cheer to show their gratitude for service men and women who are in attendance. If they didn’t stand and clap it would be seen as rude and disrespectful.

Cheering has always been a sign of support and pride for whoever, or in this case whatever it is directed at. The debate will continue, but the Blackhawk faithful won’t be stopping their cheers anytime soon.

Freshman William Serro is originally from Arizona and has never been to the United Center. Upon learning of the tradition, he  said, “It’s a different culture. I’d like to be there.”