On Singing the National Anthem
Percy Houston stepped up to the scorer’s table at midcourt as the attendees’ rose facing west for the National Anthem. Percy began to belt out the anthem then stopped mid stanza – was it for effect or for something more sinister.
Those of us on the basketball court at the Xfinity Center for the 4A State Division Championship game turned back to see Percy down on a knee, left arm bracing himself against the scorers table opposite two referees, his right arm clutching his chest. Just then the AFI medical trainers assigned to the tournament rushed to Percy’s side, laid him on his back and began to administer CPR. Thousands stood erect unsure of what was unfolding. The refs quickly dismissed both teams, Bethesda Chevy-Chase and Meade to their respective locker rooms.
Minutes would go by as emergency service personnel streamed onto the floor with automated external defibrillators (AED’s) and stretchers. Finally, the man was lifted onto a stretcher and as Tom Fedor, photographer with the Gazette, reported he had seen him lift a squeezed hand before he moved off of the floor.
What happened next surprised all of us. No, it was not the standing ovation the thousands in the crowd gave Percy for his near death rendition of the national anthem. Instead just as the competitors were called back to the court the Meade student body began singing the National Anthem from the point where Percy left it.
Quickly the singing picked up around the Xfinity Center and for once it was like it was long before the anthem became that signature sports moment of performance and showmanship – it was truly heartfelt.
Game End Note: Percy followed Meade High School and it was subsequently learned that he would be able to go home that evening. Fortunately for him many first responders were on hand to immediately attend to him. It was reported days later that he was impacted by an allergic reaction while singing.
Looking forward to hearing you again Percy, perhaps this time at a Nats game.