Straight Talk
JOE WARMINGTON - Give anthems butcherer a second chance

Singer Jeff Fuller leaves the field after performing the national anthems for Canada and the US prior to the start of the Toronto Blue Jays MLB baseball spring training game against the Houston Astros in Dunedin, Florida February 27, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS

JOE WARMINGTON | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Everybody knows there's no crying in baseball.

Unless, of course, you find yourself singing the national anthems at a Blue Jays game and blowing both of them.

Poor tenor Jeff Fuller knows all about it.

And thanks to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube so does just about everybody else.

"Horrifying version of O Canada being attempted here," tweeted Fan590 baseball reporter Mike Wilner.

"Wow. Dude started again, then gave up. Now butchering US anthem."

The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons followed on Twitter with "maybe the worst rendition of the Canadian anthem ever at Dunedin today. But give the crowd credit. They bailed the anthem singer out."

The shaken singer, however, was so upset there were reports of leaving the field in tears.

"Oh, no," was the reaction from Etobicoke, Ont., singer, songwriter and actress Kaitlin Kozell, who sang O Canada before Wednesday night's Leafs-Habs game at the Air Canada Centre with the help of Lisa Faria doing the signing for the hearing impaired. "You are always so worried about something like that happening. It's a singer's worst nightmare."

There is, she said, nothing easy about it.

"It's an incredible feeling but it is scary," she said.
But when it goes well, as Kozell's version Wednesday certainly did, there is no better high.

"It's such an adrenaline pumper," she said. "You can hear the crowd and it's so exciting."

It takes a lot of guts to even have the courage to go out and do that in the first place.

As Michael Burgess, John McDermott, Lieut. Scotty Newlands and Billy Ray Cyrus have told me before -- the white-knuckle ride is why it is so much fun to do it.

The pressure, however, is immense.

"You don't want to mess it up," said Kozell, who always has her gold holy cross necklace on for good luck. "You just have to breathe and really stay focused. If you do forget the words, just keep going as if nothing happened."

It might not be comforting words for Fuller, but he should know no one up here in Canada is worried about it and the Canucks down at spring training are just happy to be in Florida sunshine in the heart of this brutal winter.

Besides, we have seen this before and there are more anthem-singing screwups on YouTube than there are perfect ones. There's no need to shed any tears over it.

That's why classy Blue Jays manager John Gibbons went out to console Fuller.

"The poor guy. There was just nowhere for him to hide," Gibbons told the Sun's Ken Fidlin after the game. "I admire him for sticking it out and getting through it."
Simmons called it "a nice gesture on Gibbons behalf" because this version was "worse than the O Christmas Tree version years ago. The guy started and messed up the words in the first sentence. Then he stopped. Then he started again, trying to get it right and just messing it more. He didn't know the words or remember them. Then he followed it by botching the American anthem. To be honest, I felt sorry for the guy."

So did 23-year-old Kozell, who encouraged her fellow singer to get back up on the horse.

"He auditioned and did well," explained Jays media man Jay Stenhouse. "Had a bad day today, I feel bad for him."
It sounds like everybody in the stadium did.

It would be neat to give him another shot at the Rogers Centre for a little chance at redemption, don't you think?
But perhaps have Kozell there on that day, too, just in case.

And don't forget a box of Kleenex?

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