Waiting to sing the National Anthem that night was different.
I usually stand calmly on the sidelines, blowing my starting note on my pitch pipe, and go over the first couple of lines of the song while I wait to sing.
However, Vanderbilt University’s Memorial Gymnasium was filling up rapidly and excitement was in the air. The #1 ranked Florida Gators men’s basketball team was in Nashville to play the #24 ranked Commodores.
Moments earlier I had spoken to some of the cheerleaders and students about my plans, and how they could help. “Let’s raise the roof tonight,” I told them.
After the announcer asked everyone to stand for the National Anthem, I invited the crowd to sing along with me. I started singing confidently in my strong, baritone voice.
As I lifted my arm to encourage their singing, the crowd responded. Louder and louder they sang, ending the song with the grand “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” followed by a thunderous applause by all.
I learned later that singing the Star-Spangled Banner together used to be a tradition in Memorial Gymnasium.
The raucous crowd that night must have inspired the home team to play their best, as Vanderbilt beat Florida 83-70.