During a discussion on the recent pre-game "stunt" attempt, where a majority of people commenting noted the poor choice to distribute red, white and blue pom-poms prior to a game where an opponent had red and white as their colors, I noted my own discomfort with the fact that they were encouraging fans to be doing anything at all when they did so. And this hasn't been the first time. A previous night game encouraged fans to hold up pre-printed cards to display an image during the National Anthem. I think the initial concept, engaging in distracting activities while the Anthem is playing, supposedly to honor veterans, regardless of any issues with colors, is extremely flawed.
I have enjoyed and love most the pre-game sequence, both outside the stadium, with the drum line practice and the band marching into the stadium, the players coming in and touching Kinnick's helmet, through Back in Black, and Enter Sandman, with the Hawkeye semi smashing some token of the opposing team. And for most games, start to finish, things are done right. Even Nile Kinnick's Heisman speech, bundled into the Anthem sequence of events, is tone perfect, and non-disruptive, and lends a Hawkeye flavor to an American event. But in at least the two instances noted above, theres been the odd choice to engage the fans in distracting activities during the playing of the Anthem itself. I find this highly inappropriate, by itself. To put forth such things as "honoring veterans and service members" is adding further to how inappropriate it is.
Consider, on US military bases, here and overseas, at about 4 or 5 every evening (depending on local customs), rain or shine, Retreat is sounded, followed by the National Anthem (and in the cases of overseas bases, the anthem of the host country as well). Ever service member outside, along with anyone else on base, is expected to halt their vehicle, stop walking, cease other activity, and render the appropriate salute or hand gesture for their situation. There are some exceptions, the major one bing those indoors who wouldn't hear it, and presumably exceptions for emergency vehicles, though I've never seen it.
It's a breathtaking thing, to have everyone stop, just for a few moments a day, and reflect. Of course, some begin to view it as a chore, granted, and I've seen an airman ripped for making a run for a door inside when they heard the crackle of the loudspeaker turn on in an effort to avoid it. There is a natural inclination to become tired with the same routine, the old, the boring. But I've never once seen a man or woman in uniform, once those notes have started, do anything besides stand at attention, and render a salute. No giant cards saying "GO USA!". No Pom-Poms. Frankly, I'd love to have a bucket of popcorn and a good seat to watch someone who'd present such an idea to, say, the Marine Commandant for use at one of the Naval Academy's games.
I remember distinctly my first couple games back after serving, It astonished me when people would continue to walk down the stairs at Kinnick, would even try to shuffle down rows to their seats while the anthem was playing. With that training in mind, to encourage fans to do something distracting in order to honor veterans seems bizarre, at a minimum.
If some token of respect beyond the Anthem itself is necessary, and I'd contend that, on the whole, it generally isn't, then some other time and place would be the correct one. For that particular moment, I'll simply refer to the instructions provided in the US Flag Code, as amended:
(b) Conduct During Playing.— During a rendition of the national anthem—
- (1) when the flag is displayed—
(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
- (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
Honoring the sacrifice of veterans? It's that simple.