I hope the World Series games generate as much suspense as "The Star-Spangled Banner" does.
Famously ear-splitting renditions by the likes of Roseanne Barr, Olympic champ Carl Lewis and others still ring in our collective consciousness.
Neither of those was actually performed at a World Series game, but every year, I can't help but worry that some of the most-watched, most-heard renditions of the national anthem during the Fall Classic will be a replay of one of those awful performances.
A bigger question looms, though: Why are we listening to celebrities perform our national anthem instead of singing it ourselves?
Who decided that an individual with a hyper-personalization of the nation's song is better than our collective joining together in a shared expression?
Yes, I get the whole individuality thing and can't argue against personal expression. It seems, however, we prefer observation over participation.
Obviously we sit in the stands to observe the game. No one expects fans to become players, except those folks along the foul line who occasionally insert themselves into the game.
In the case of the national anthem, however, we, the fans, are the players - and we are staying in the dugout.
Acknowledging the political and cultural upheaval that surrounded Jose Feliciano's controversial rendition before the fifth game of the 1968 World Series, we seem to have abdicated our sense of participation and reduced ourselves to holding the Wii controller while a more flashy personification does the real work.
Have we really been trained to let someone else do for us what can only be truly done by ourselves? This training has been more effective than we might realize. At the three high school football games I attended this fall, the national anthem was played by the local marching band.
Even though the fans were specifically invited to "sing along" while the band played, few were willing to lift their voice. Why?
Maybe I have a selective memory, but, as I recall, most World Cup players were singing their anthem with great gusto and pride and one could hear the thousands of fans singing along in those massive South African stadiums.
Can anyone argue against a nation's song being more appropriate when sung by thousands than by one?
Maybe we're all intimidated by "Glee" and "American Idol." Maybe we consider ourselves unworthy to be heard in public.
Maybe our sense of community has been hijacked by our desire to be entertained. Maybe you end up standing next to a Roseann Barr.
Maybe you are Roseann Barr. Either way, sing. It's what the anthem is all about.
Certainly our sense of community was heightened in the months after Sept. 11. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" met "God Bless America" in those 2001 seventh inning stretches. I can still hear that glorious sound of thousands of Americans joining voices.
It was a time of connecting, a time of mutual support, a time of shared purpose, a time of engagement, a time of, well, participation.
Baseball is America's pastime, and the national anthem is connected to that collective love of something, country or sport.
When the time comes for fans to join in a collective experience and sing the song together, let's hope for a high level of participation as we lift our voices to affirm the we, not the Wii.
Russell Shelley is the Elma Stine Heckler Professor of Music at Juniata College in Huntingdon. He is director of the college's vocal program.