To Anthem-Belting Hopefuls: Beware the Star-Spangled Blunder

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Botching "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a national pastime. Roseanne Barr did it at a baseball game in 1990. Carl Lewis did it at a basketball game in 1993. Even the late, great Robert Goulet (R.I.P.) flubbed a line before a boxing match in 1965 and never quite lived it down. As Nat "King" Cole reportedly said: If you do nothing else in your life, don't ever sing the national anthem at a ballgame.

You can take a step toward ignoring that advice by heading to ESPN Zone on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for its Anthem Idol competition. The grand prize? The opportunity to sing (or butcher) the anthem before a Washington Wizards game at Verizon Center. Someone has to do it.

Contestants should register at the restaurant's SportsCenter Studio Store (555 12th St. NW, 202-783-3776) by Tuesday. The competition will consist of two rounds: Contestants will first sing 30 seconds of a song of their choosing; then a panel of judges will vote five finalists through to the final round, when they must sing the intimidating octave-spanning anthem that has felled celebrities and professional singers alike. The winner will be determined by the panel and the crowd at the restaurant.

A couple of tips if you do sing the anthem: Don't interrupt it mid-song to apologize for your poor performance (as Lewis did), or conclude it by spitting and grabbing your crotch (as Barr did). Stay sophisticated in the face of failure. If it helps, think to yourself, What would Goulet do?

-- Dan Zak

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