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Like it or not, American sporting events have established a tradition of singing the national anthem before a game, and no game is a bigger event with more viewers each year than the Super Bowl.
Whether you like this tradition for a Week 3 game is a different story, but most people should at least acknowledge the Super Bowl is a special event that is worthy of a stirring performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Given the practice we have at hearing this song throughout the year, it is a song with lyrics that are easier to remember than anything else performed at the Super Bowl, including “America the Beautiful” and anything the halftime artist performs.
That means a lot of viewers can follow along to a song they know well, and any misstep on the words is going to stick out like a sore thumb.
Pop singer Christina Aguilera, already a long-established big name in the industry, found this out the hard way during her performance of the national anthem before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in February 2011.
While it is hardly the worst anthem performance ever done in public – see Roseanne Barr in 1990 for that – it is the Super Bowl’s notable anthem blunder, and it came at a time when social media was starting to blow up with Facebook and Twitter adding to the criticism.
We look back at where Aguilera slipped up and how she even cost the sportsbooks some money with her performance.
Aguilera’s Audible Mistake
There are 4 verses to “The Star-Spangled Banner” but it is the 8 lines of the first verse that are always played in public performances. Eight lines does not seem like a lot to memorize, but if someone were to mess them up, you would probably single out lines 2 and 4 given they have the most similar sounding usage of rhyming with “twilight’s last gleaming” matched later by “were so gallantly streaming.”
Sure enough, that is where Aguilera made her error.
She got through the first 2 lines very well, then you could hear some nervousness when she got to line 3 and how long she held the word “whose” before going into the “broad stripes and bright stars” part.
But then line 4 was her undoing as she essentially recycled line 2 with only the “we watched” part being correct:
- The real 2nd line: “What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming”
- The real 4th line: “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”
- Aguilera’s 4th line: “What’s so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming”
At least it sounded like “reaming” was her last word. It definitely wasn’t “streaming” like it should have been, but she tried to get the right sound in there even though she clearly forgot the right words to that line.
To Aguilera’s credit, she was able to transition right into the “And the rocket’s red glare” line, which is always a key part to showcase the singer’s range and talent. The crowd was still with her, and a live shot of U.S. troops looking on got a big pop from the crowd, so it wasn’t like TV audiences were treated to a lot of bewildered faces or people making fun of her for the word flub.
But she definitely botched the line and issued an apology to the AP after the game. Talking to the AP, Aguilera said, “I got so lost in the moment of the song that I lost my place. I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through.”
At least it was an honest mistake, but the line blunder was not the only controversy to brew from Aguilera’s performance.
The Hit to the Sportsbooks
A popular Super Bowl prop bet is the over/under on how long it will take the national anthem singer to get through those famous 8 lines. The line for Aguilera in Super Bowl XLV was 1 minute and 54 seconds.
With a disputed time between 1:53 and 1:54, some sportsbooks ended up paying out both sides of the over/under prop. Some felt she added an extra “oh” to the finale line, which extended the time just enough for the over to hit.
It is the only time on record that any sportsbooks were willing to pay out both sides of this popular prop, which has only become more popular of a market as more people are betting on the Super Bowl these days than they were in 2011.
Good Luck, Reba McEntire
Country singer Reba McEntire is going to sing the national anthem at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. She’s already followed in Aguilera’s footsteps by joining the cast of The Voice. Now she’ll hope to not follow Aguilera by messing up a line in the famous song.
Meet Reba McEntire, performer of the 2024 Super Bowl national anthem before Super Bowl 58https://t.co/sQ5GKq0Ybh— Nfl on Sportsdark (@nflnewser) February 2, 2024
There are several prop bets available for McEntire’s national anthem performance, including an over/under time of 109.5 seconds as she is less likely to hold some notes as long as the pop star did.
But thanks in large part to Aguilera’s mistake in 2011, there is always a prop bet now for whether the singer will forget or omit a word in their national anthem performance.
For McEntire, “No” is the heavy favorite at -2000 odds. But with “Yes” coming in at +700 odds, you could get some solid value if you think the bright lights of Vegas and the pressure of performing in front of Taylor Swift will get to Reba.