I’ve written before about how Whitney Houston performed the Spar Spangled Banner in a way no one before her or after her ever could–how she sold millions of copies of the single, how she took a customary pre-game routine and elevated it to another level, and how her version got new life after it was re-released after the events of September 11, 2001. It seemed impossible that any person would ever perform it as movingly or as powerfully as Whitney Houston did.
But last night, during the most Canadian of our sports, the most American thing happened: we found that what might be the best rendition of the National Anthem ever came not from one person, but from thousands of people singing together. It didn’t start out that way: a man named Rene Rencourt began to sing, but then stepped away from the microphone and became a mere conductor, leading the choir of Boston Bruins fans in singing our national hymn. It was spontaneous; people just sung from their hearts, and Rencourt was amazing enough to realize in the moment that his silence was even more powerful than his beautiful voice. It could have been solemn, and in a way it was, but it was more than that. It was triumphant, hopeful, even defiant. It was beautiful. And it reminds you that as much as people mythologize rugged individualism and American exceptionalism, it’s never really only been about any one of us. It’s always also been about all of us, together.
Look, if you’re trying to crush the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong ones to try. The first guy who ran 26.2 miles shouted victory and then died. And these are people who decided to run the same distance for fun. Some of these people run in groups or push someone in a wheelchair or do it in full firefighter gear or in high heels. These people cheer each other on and give and receive high fives to random strangers. And on top of all that, this is Boston. So whatever those nuts were trying to accomplish, they failed. Just watch and listen.