by Paul Knepper
Everybody has heard by now that Christina Aguilera flubbed the words of the national anthem in front of 160 million viewers prior to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas. Any time I hear a botched rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at a sporting event I think of Carl Lewis’s infamous hack job before a Nets-Bulls game in 1993. However, there have been athletes who have nailed the anthem at sporting events, Jerry Stackhouse, Walter McCarty and Jose Lima, to name a few. Upon reflecting on these athletes turned crooners, I put together a list of the ten current or former athletes I’d most like to hear sing the anthem at a sporting event.
10) Dave Stewart/ Bill Cartwright
It would be embarrassing to throw the ultra-competitive, high-pitched hurler out there by himself, so I partnered him with one of the deepest voices ever to man the paint. The only thing more unorthodox than Big Bill’s baritone voice was his eccentric shooting style.
9) Arnold Schwarzenegger
Who can forget Julius belting out “Yakety Yak” in the shower? I want to hear more from the Governator, though it’s unlikely he’ll be caroling at events in California any time soon, where his approval rating has dipped lower than his voice.
8) Avery Johnson
The Nets coach’s bizarre squeaky southern twang looks as unnatural as it sounds. It’s as if he’s having an internal battle with his mouth while trying to enunciate the words. I used to find it irritating, but the Louisiana native’s peculiar pitch has grown on me and I’d love to hear its full range.
7) Shaquille O’Neal
We got a taste of the Diesel’s skills on the mic from his fabled days with the Fu-Schnikens and free-style Kobe dissing. At times “The Big Mumbler” makes Ozzy Osbourne sound like an elocutionist, but the Shaqtus has a flare for the dramatic and would be entertaining even if we couldn’t understand a word.
6) Mike Ditka
If you saw Ditka sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field a few years ago then no explanation necessary. Coach looked like his head was about to explode as he sputtered out high-pitched barking noises, while neglecting to break for air.
5) Ozzie Guillen
There’s a decent chance the White Sox skipper would get booed, either for messing up a line (English is his second language) or pissing off the crowd one way or another. If he were, you can be sure he’d start swearing like a sailor. It would make for great television.
4) Bill Parcells
Technically, he’s not a pro athlete (though he was drafted by the Lions) and there’s nothing unusual about his voice, but the Tuna is one of the biggest curmudgeons in sports. Can you imagine how uncomfortable he’d be singing a tune in front of a packed house? It would be fantastic.
3) Randy “The Macho Man” Savage
The Macho Man would make a grand entrance to “Pomp and Circumstance,” decked out in sunglasses, a bandanna and colorful robe. Then he’d serenade the crowd with his signature gravely voice, broken up by several emphatic pauses. I can hear it now… “And the home… of the… brave… Ooooh Yeah!”
2) Dikembe Mutombo
Call me crazy, but I’d pay money to hear a lovable 7’2 giant who sounds like Cookie Monster sing any song. Dikembe would perform with a big grin on his face and be the first to tell us what an excellent job he did. Maybe he could even sprinkle in a few diva-like finger wags throughout the song.
1) Mike Tyson
It never grows old that the once baddest man in the world sounds like Mickey Mouse on roofies. Speaking of roofies, I found the champs rendition of “In the Air Tonight” in The Hangover simply breathtaking. Plus, there’s always a chance Iron Mike will go Artest and attack a few fans.
Honorable Mentions: Charles Barkley, Herm Edwards, Manny Ramirez