It happened before an NBA game, and to be fair, Carl Lewis (a US hero of the tainted 1984 Olympics, and one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century) actually had a successful pop-singing career - with hits in Japan and Sweden. He can, more or less, sing, though I imagine he didn't get too many solos in the church choir.

This one long-forgotten night, Carl made it onto SportsCenter. For all the wrong reasons.

There are two common errors when singing the Star-Spangled Banner a capella in front of a crowd of 20,000 people:

  • starting on too high a note - you are, after all, starting with the lowest notes in the song.

  • forgetting the lyrics - a sin, since you only have to sing the first verse (The Star-Spangled Banner is actually ten minutes long) and you've heard it since birth.

    He broke both rules, and it was captured on video tape - after all, an American "hero" was singing the anthem, a Big Event. He went down in flames, stopping at least twice to get his bearings. "Rockets red glare" was mangled by pauses, restarts, gasps, and spontaneous redirections of the melody; falsetto was, it seemed, not an option.

    Legend has it: the tape aired that night on SportsCenter, and Charlie Steiner could barely go on with the show afterward, being convulsed in giggles.

    Sampled, it's always just one button-push away from The Fabulous Sports Babe on her radio show.

    Now that ESPN is promoing its Lewis profile, honoring him as the #12 athlete of the century, I'm giggling. Will they show the tape?

    There's an MP3! BigHoliday points out the magic URL http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~ds72051/spangled.mp3. The star-mangled spanner!

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