Any reporter worth her keyboard is willing to make a fool out of herself for a story.
So when I heard that the Barclays Center was holding public auditions for the chance to belt out the national anthem at a Nets playoff game, there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to throw my singing voice, such as it is, into the running.
I am by no means a singer or musician. The last time I really let my pipes soar was in a middle-school choir performance of “Colors of the Wind” and my cello-playing days are as distant a memory as my calluses.
But pride be damned. On Monday morning, I started to prepare for my afternoon tryout as any good American would — by printing out the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I know the words, more or less, but at sporting events I am usually scouring the aisles for a beer when our republic’s signature ditty is being sung and I figured I could stand to brush up.
I then scoured my closet for some patriotic garb and came up with a black leather jacket, because to me, there is nothing more American than shopping at Marshall’s.
Outside the Barclays Center, I found a long line of would-be Celine Dions waiting for their shot at the big time. I was certain that at least one or two of them would be even more abysmal vocalists than I, but after a few eagerly burst out in song for gathered television reporters, I realized this was less talent show and more “American Idol.” Cue clammy hands and those familiar middle-school butterflies.
I was grouped in with five other eager beavers — including a violinist, a tap dancer who was wheeling around a wooden hand-drum, and a young girl who, in an ominous turn, burst into tears and backed out at the last minute. We were led to a practice court inside the massive arena and instructed to sit in a line of plush chairs that offered a front-and-center view of our competition.
And it was as fierce as I had feared. From my seat, I watched a steady procession of Brooklynites hit notes that made me hang my head in shame. The table of judges was less impressed, cutting off top operatic talents mid-”banners yet wave” or, if they were lucky, “home of the brave,” each judge holding up one hand to mark the moment of her or his disapproval.
Before I knew what was happening, it was my turn to show them what I had to offer, which was nothing more than a box of mints and some gossip about Long Island College Hospital. I stepped up to the mic stand, lyrics in hand, and only made it as far as “broad stripes” when the judges began waving for me to halt my screeching. They used both hands and pulled no punches when it came to assessing my chances at stage stardom.
“Try an easier song next time — maybe ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb?’ ” said judge Petra Pope, marketing head for the Nets.
“Is this your first audition?” another judge asked.
I hurried off the court with all the composure of an antelope that is about to be mauled.
But not all the reviews were so harsh. The tap dancer in my group, who turned out to be a producer of the annual Fort Greene Jazz Festival, said I could actually be an in-demand entertainer — with some practice.
“With some voice lessons, you could be smokin,’ ” composer Eric Frazier said.
So although I probably will not be belting out the opening number at a Nets game anytime soon, I might one day improve enough to make it through at least to “gallantly streaming.”
Watch out, world.