But First, Our National Anthem:

I am, I admit, a total national anthem junkie, and one of the things I love about the World Cup is the way the anthems are featured. The Olympic award ceremony has a certain charm, with the flag being raised while the anthem of the winner is played. But for me, the Cup has more drama, with the teams lined up, heads high, each player with his hands on the shoulders of a youth player standing in front of him, the anthem playing and the ‘locals’ in the crowd (and, very often, the players) singing at top voice. It’s one thing that I have found most appealing at the international soccer games I’ve gone to (in Italy, Holland, and Israel), the way that the crowds get so passionate during the initial singing of the anthem. It’s something we Americans hardly ever do — we have a particularly difficult anthem to sing (though there have, to be sure, been some notably spectacular performances, see, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU5AYcAhvyo), and we don’t have quite the tradition of public singing that others do. I tell you, sitting in the midst of 50,000 or so Italians all belting out their anthem molto fortissimo is a helluva way to start a soccer game. [I expect some good noise from the US fans at tomorrow’s game — apparently more US fans have bought tickets to the Cup this year than from any other country, and I’m hoping for a nice rousing rendition of the Stars and Stripes before they take the field against England].