I sang The National Anthem when I was 12 years old at the NBA San Antonio Spurs games. I had no fear. I had sung it about five times and it went so well that they asked me to come back and sing it at the opening season game. It would be nationally televised. I’ll never forget the moment the announcer said, “Would you please stand and join Georgia Middleman in singing ‘The National Anthem.'” The cameras were on and thousands of people stood up and put their hands over their heart. I stepped up to the microphone and sang the first few lines:

“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What’s so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…”

That’s when I forgot the words.

Oh no… do I stop? Start over? Go straight to the end of the song and maybe they won’t notice?

I decided to go straight to the end of the song:

“Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It had to be the shortest rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” in history. During that panic-stricken moment, I looked up and watched thousands of singing Texans look around at each other very confused because while they were trying to sing the right words, the little girl on the court was singing the wrong ones.

Nationally televised. Opening season game.

I’m not good at forgiving myself for making mistakes. Never have been. The nice people who worked for the arena thanked me that night and never asked me back again.

Old wounds are hard to heal. As much as I’ve wanted to, I’ve been terrified to sing that song ever since. So I never have.

That happened when I was 12 years old. I’m 44 now and am flying to Atlanta tomorrow with Blue Sky Riders to…. guess what? Perform The National Anthem at the Atlanta Braves game tomorrow night.

What’s different now, you ask? I’m still terrified but I’m also still trying to impress Gary and Kenny. So when the request came in for us to perform, I said “Great!” I was NOT going to be the weasel who said “Oh, no, I’m sorry… I don’t feel comfortable doing that song.” No, I was not going to do that.

So instead, I think I’ll go with Theodore Roosevelt’s words:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It’s 32 years later; I’m so proud of my country and really want to sing those words. Plus there’s no better time like the present to conquer old fears. And no better way of doing it than in front of 45,000 people. Wish me luck!

Blue Sky Riders – National Anthem 9.16.12