April 14, 2008

Flams and drags

The national anthem at last week's home opener at Fenway Park—performed by a Boston Pops contingent—included the now de rigueur obbligato of a military jet flyover. (I'm enough of a 12-year-old boy that I still think jets are pretty awesome, but come on, that's a public-school teacher's salary* for the whole year right there.) Anyway, this year's flyover—F-16s, if you're a connoisseur—had some problems. Not Arthur Hailey-level problems, but problems nonetheless.
An unexpected delay in the playing of the national anthem during the Boston Red Sox opener at Fenway Park on Tuesday contributed to the unorthodox maneuver by a Vermont Air National Guard pilot during a flyover moments later.

The resulting spectacle—one F-16 fighter jet looping over and then under the other three to find its place in the traditional V-formation—ended in the pilot's grounding this week, which in turn prompted a flurry of media attention.
That's according to a Burlington Free Press report (via) complete with video (not to mention priceless comments). The source of the delay? Government sources are pointing the finger at the percussionist.
"There was a false start, a 'hack,' caused by a drum roll before the anthem," said Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow. "When the controller on the ground at Fenway realized that, we had to put the pilots back into a figure-eight holding pattern."
A drum roll from the Boston Pops Orchestra, assembled in centerfield, followed, then was halted as [Red Sox public-address announcer Joe] Castiglione began speaking again, this time to salute members of the armed services and tell the crowd who was performing the anthem and doing the flyover.
The pilot "was going faster than the rest of the formation was going," Goodrow went on. "Then, it seemed the tempo of the music slowed down, so the leader in the formation slowed down. By then, the pilot was approaching faster than he needed to." It's like high-school band, isn't it? All it takes is for one person not to follow the conductor and it's CHAOS! (Or a personal favorite: "If you come in early, I can't help you.")

This sounds like a conductor-announcer problem to me, but of course, it's the performers who get the blame—and not just the drummer. "Goodrow said he did not know if the incident Tuesday would jeopardize the Air Guard's chances to perform flyovers at future Boston-area events." Is that the Air National Guard equivalent of being bumped down to fourth chair?

*Update (4/14): More like a few salaries.

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