by Melissa Brunner
KU Coach Bill Self made news this week by jumping into the debate over altering the National Anthem. For a long time, some Kansas City Chiefs fans have expressed support for their team by shouting "Chiefs" in place of "brave" in the Star Spangled Banner's final line, "and the home of the brave." It has apprantly spread to other venues, with fans following the same practice at the K and Allen Fieldhouse.
Forget whether it makes sense to be shouting "home of the Chiefs" in the home of the Jayhawks, Bill Self's point is that the National Anthem is a time to honor our nation and those who have sacrificed for our freedoms. He asked fans to be show respect by keeping the anthem as is.
Whether you have thought the expression is disrespectful or harmless enthusiastic fun, I can tell you the National Anthem holds a lot of meaning for a lot of people. Did you get upset with Roseanne Barr's crotch-grabbing version many years ago? Do you shake your head when stars forget the words to it? Then it must mean something to you, too.
I learned how deeply personal it can be, though, when I was in college. I sang the National Anthem for a lot of events around my hometown. The summer I was doing fishing reports for the local radio station (yes, that was a real thing - but that's another story!), I was doing the National Anthem for the weekly stock car races. One of the charter boat captains I visited with regularly was a Vietnam veteran. He was a gruff guy, tough as nails. He attended the races most weeks and would give me a wave. Toward the end of the summer, he stopped on his way through the gate and said, "I just want you to know, that when you sing the National Anthem, it makes me cry - thank you for that." It was perhaps the greatest compliment I'd ever received.
It also made me realize that this isn't just some song we sing out of duty, these words are a living, breathing embodiment of that for which so many have fought so long and so hard. When we sing the Star Spangled Banner, we recognize that America is a land for everyone to come together and enjoy opportunity. We are the land of the free and the home - not just of the Chiefs or the Raiders or the Jayhawks or the Wildcats - we are the home of the brave.