Whitney Houston’s tragic passing took me back to the Super Bowl at Tampa, Florida in 1991. I remember because I was there. It was the first Super Bowl where security was amped up to a high level because the US was in the Gulf war.
Everyone was feeling patriotic when Whitney stepped up and sang her resounding Star Spangled Banner. Actually, she didn’t just sing it. She BELTED it out. It stuck with you. The dramatic game between the Bills and Giants was decided on a missed field goal by Buffalo’s Scott Norwood. Still, afterwards, players on both teams were talking about Whitney. Her version was SO good, it actually became a hit recording.
It was one of those moments that reminds you of how sports and music always dance together. I tune out the endless hip hop at NBA games. But I remember real singers bringing their “A” game at major sporting events.
Marvin Gaye at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles in 1983 was another such moment. Marvin sang the anthem as only he could, with unmistakeable soul. Its the only time I ever recall an audience clapping in unision during the anthem. We were at a basketball game, but Marvin took us to church.
Prince singing “Purple Rain” IN the rain at the 2007 Super Bowl. You couldn’t have scripted that any better. Great theatre. It took our minds off of the fact that this was the soggiest Super Bowl in history.
Whitney’s gone, but my memory of how she blended sports and music will stick with me. As athletes often say about each other…she had game.