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Susanne Mentzer Headshot

Betting the Banner XLVIII

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Clarissa Leahy via Getty Images
Clarissa Leahy via Getty Images

This Sunday I will be molded to my sofa watching the big game, alas without the 49ers.

The betting website is reporting on activity leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl -- bets placed not on the actual game but on the length of the national anthem. They report that another site, Bovada, believes it will log in between 2:15 and 2:25.

I am not sure why the time is so important but in these days of carefully calculated and purchased broadcast time I suppose it weighs heavily in certain camps.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, if you are a football or opera fan you will know that opera star, soprano Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday. I believe that this announcement has garnered more publicity for the opera world in the popular media since Luciano Pavarotti starred in Yes Giorgio!. If one searches the topic online there are dozens of features and mentions. For some reason it has also been the topic of derision and amusement.

I understand that some are concerned that Ms. Fleming may sing slower than some and many are predicting she will come in around 2:25. They are concerned the weather will affect the speed, anticipating that she might be slowed by the cold air. (Tip: She won't be.)

SB Nation reports:

Four of the last six performances of the national anthem at the Super Bowl went under two minutes, including Christina Aguilera's infamous performance in which she omitted an entire line of the song. Jennifer Hudson's performance at Super Bowl 43 took 2:10 minutes to complete while Alicia Keys took 2:35 minutes to get through the song last year in one of the most popular pre-game Super Bowl betting odds.

What makes this year's total so interesting is the unknown factor of the singer. While most popular artists here have plenty of performances of the national anthem on YouTube to research, Renee Fleming does not.

Needless to say, a professional opera singer has the voice and range to stretch the song out for as long as she chooses.

Will Fleming use the Super Bowl stage to show off her opera endurance or will she be instructed to sing the national anthem in a timely fashion? Prop bettors with a hunch should bet on the over or under 2:25 accordingly.

Many viewers might use this time to use the restroom or fill up a bowl with chips and queso so as to not miss any of the game. The few who will stay, watch, and not mute the TV can take note:

Renee Fleming...
is not a fat lady
is a beautiful woman
is over the age of 50
has no breast plate or horns on her head
singing the correct pitches and words without sliding all over
basing her livelihood on two little fragile pieces of membranes
has worked more than 25 years in top form (longer than most professional athletes)
will sing as long as the song lasts

So what is the big deal? For me the very fact that this has been made a big deal is the big deal. I hope the fans both in the stadium and the viewing audience welcome her will open ears. It might be the only time one hears the anthem as is is truly to meant be sung. Try to stay openminded and enjoy the moment of beauty before hearing the smashing of helmets and "OMAHA."

Post Script:
Who says opera and football don't mix? The following are working opera singers:

Keith Miller was a starting fullback at the University of Colorado, playing in both the Fiesta and Cotton Bowls and played professional football for five years with the European and Arena Football Leagues. Ta'u Pupu'a was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1995, was defensive end for the Ravens. Lawrence Harris was a lineman with the Houston Oilers. Ray Hornblower played for Harvard. Morrison Robinson played for offensive line at the Citadel. Michael Sumuel, one of my own former students, played high school football in Midland Odessa.