Christina Aguilera's National Anthem: Better Than Carl Lewis', Anyway

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Today, Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are presumably on their way to Disney World, the Pittsburgh Steelers are praying Ben Roethlisberger did not do anything in the many, many strip clubs of the greater Metroplex to bring on a repeat of his season-opening four-game suspension, and Christina Aguilera is no doubt scanning the back pages of Variety for a new management/publicity team.

It's been a rough year for Xtina, bless her heart. Her most recent album, Bionic, stiffed, and she canceled her summer '10 tour to "promote" her forthcoming big-screen debut opposite Cher in Burlesque, with "promote" being a code word for "slow ticket sales." Then, when Burlesque opened, its box-office numbers made Bionic's sales look like Taylor Swift's Speak Now by comparison. She also got divorced.

So when Aguilera was offered the opportunity to sing the national anthem before Sunday's Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, it was a golden opportunity for her to get back in America's good graces and give her sagging commercial fortunes a shot in the arm. Especially with those pipes.

Instead, she blew the lyrics to a song for which all eight lines of the first - and, in most people's minds, only - verse can be printed on a postcard with enough room left over for a good-size drawing of the flag they are about. Hasn't anyone on Team Xtina ever heard of a TelePrompTer?

Still, Aguilera should take heart. All she did was forget get creative with a few of the words. There's no way her version of the "Banner" will ever measure up to perhaps the golden standard of suck delivered by former U of H track star and multiple Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis before a 1993 NBA game.

Lewis actually fancied himself a musician - see this video for his 1987 not-quite-hit "Break It Up," which isn't so bad if you're really into Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" - but his shot at the anthem pretty much put an end to that particular dream. Lewis' version is so awful that, not only does it usually rank higher than Roseanne's on people's lists of the worst "Banners" of all time (Google it) but Rocks Off could not even find a raw version on YouTube that contains more than about half a minute of the song.

We did find several that have been augmented with various shock-jock commentary; Jim Rome and Howard Stern each spent about six minutes riffing on it. The quality sucks anyway - we can't even tell who the other team is besides the Chicago Bulls, who (believe it or not) actually drafted Lewis the same year they did Michael Jordan - so Rocks Off thought instead of showing you the clip, we'd just walk you through these 30 seconds of hell. You can thank us later.

0:00-0:08: Warmup? Lewis vocalizes one long "ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ohh," encompassing several syllables and notes, none of which is on key.

0:09-0:14: First line of the anthem, which is actually on key. Maybe he can sing.

0:15: Video mysteriously skips over next four lines of the anthem, including the perilous vocal leaps in "what so proudly we hailed" and "o'er the ramparts we watched." So maybe not.

0:16: At the beginning of line five ("And the rockets' red glare..."), Lewis sings "red glare" like he is either passing a kidney stone or pleading with the vet not to put his dog to sleep. Not a good look.

0:19-0:21: Camera pans across players on both sidelines and fans in the stands, all of whom are losing their shit.

0:22: Lewis, to his credit, realizes his anthem has gone off the rails. Even he chuckles as he swears to the crowd, "I'll make up for it."

0:24-0:31: He does not, continuing to take such liberties with both intonation and meter during "o'er the land of the free" that the merciful YouTube editors omit the anthem's final line entirely.

So... yeah. If you need a patriotic palate cleanser, this coming Sunday is the 28th anniversary of Marvin Gaye singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the 1983 NBA All-Star Game at the L.A. Forum.

Gaye would be dead less than a year later, but his version of the national anthem - which, not coincidentally, sounds more like "Sexual Healing" than Francis Scott Key - remains the standard by which all other pregame "Ladies and gentlemen, to honor America..." moments are measured.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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