February 7, 2013

What songs still get a reaction from sports audiences?

The Announcer's Blog has a handy list of songs (in the right-hand column) for use in various situations during a sports game -- win, loss, rain delay, seasonal theme, etc. They've been at it for awhile, and hail from different parts of the country, so it's withstood some kind of test, not just a list that sounds good on paper.

No surprise that there are so many '80s songs given. It's more striking, though, that they appear in every category, whereas newer or older songs do well in some areas but aren't up to the task in others.

For example, their list of long game songs that are meant to "get a rise from the crowd and a smile on some dreary faces" has one song from 1957, one from 2000, and a dozen spanning the '60s through the '80s. The most pick-you-up-when-you're-down song of them all has to be "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge. They should make one of those bot-detector programs that plays this song and tests whether you push replay when it's over. A normal human being still capable of feeling joy can't help it, while the growing autistic majority will shut it off before it finishes the first time. This is only a test...

Most of the post-game win songs are from the good old days, not counting the boastful "All I Do Is Win" by DJ Khaled or the not very useful "My Hero" by Foo Fighters. Winning is supposed to be a team thing, and everyone's so fragmented these days to get a crowd unified; we're right back to the mid-century zeitgeist. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" may be a bit too romantic for a sports context, although maybe female players would appreciate hearing it. And "Celebration" from the last days of disco is a bit too light for a triumph. The best would seem to be "Flashdance... What a Feeling" -- nice underdog beginning, gradual build-up, then celebratory release.

For the championship game, they've nailed it with "You're the Best Around", which plays during the final match in The Karate Kid, along with "We Are the Champions" for when the winners are honored afterward. Speaking of Queen, I haven't been to a stadium in forever -- during the game, do fans still do the stomp-stomp-clap to the beat of "We Will Rock You"? Or did that die out with the chanting of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Post-game loss songs are another strong suit of the '80s, when the soaring crime rate brought resiliency to its peak. The more recent ones sound whiny and sour-grapesy, like "When It's Over" by Sugar Ray. If it were some time after the end, I could see playing "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" or "C'est La Vie", which are great for the moving-on-with-life stage after a big loss. The Tom Petty songs "Don't Do Me Like That" and "You Got Lucky" are a little too bratty in this context. In the immediate aftermath, you need to acknowledge rather than dismiss or suppress that drop of testosterone following your team's loss. Something down, yet subdued and sincere, "we're all in the same boat" kind of messages. "Human" by the Human League sounds like the best choice. They didn't list "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range -- that sounds OK to me on paper, but it could sound too defeatist in context.

There are plenty of newer songs on the "America" theme list, although I doubt they kick as much ass as "Living in America" by James Brown, from the Rocky IV soundtrack. What's really fallen off a cliff are songs that highlight several regions specifically, not just an overall American theme, nor boasting about why your state is better than everyone else's. That's a sign of regional fragmentation. "California Girls" (the Beach Boys or the David Lee Roth version), "Dancing in the Street" (the original or the Jagger / Bowie cover), and "The Heart of Rock & Roll" are the only ones that run a tour across the whole country. One of the songs from Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album has a fade-out that calls out a bunch of places -- Detroit, southern New Jersey -- but I can't remember which one, and lyrics websites don't say either. There's also no more songs about red states, the last major one being "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" by Alabama, another triumph from that peak year in music, 1984.

People in the good old days were more in touch with nature, too, and knew how to go along with it. Either of the two Creedence songs about rain would do, but I'd actually go with "No Rain" by Blind Melon to pick the audience up when they might get cranky. "You Shook Me All Night Long" is the obvious balls-to-the-walls choice for after an earthquake, and "Walking on Sunshine" is the must-play for a bright daytime game.

Anyway, have a look around their lists. Some would be self-conscious and corny, but they look pretty good overall. It's also a good exercise to show how the '80s had a tune for every mood.


  1. They used to play "Celebration" after Atlanta Braves victories during the early-mid 80s.

  2. I'd suggest "Mississippi Queen", but there are no major pro teams there. Not that you could then get away with "Mississippi Goddamn".

    "The New World" (originally by X, but I hear Poster Children's cover more often) has lots of shout-outs to rust-belt cities. Too political to be played though. And of course they're not going to play the Clash's "I'm So Bored with the USA", Eater's "Thinking of the USA", the Exploited's "Fuck the USA", Naked Raygun's "Only in America", the Weirdos "Fort USA", D.O.A's "America the Beautiful" or GWAR's "Americanized". All fun songs though. Guess Who's "American Woman", in contrast, is too serious a critique from them damn furrinners to the north, so I don't enjoy it as much (the Nice's "America" aspires to seriousness, but it's mostly instrumental so you can ignore that). The Freeze's "This is Boston Not L.A" expresses unironic regional pride along with a diss toward the away team, Local H (despite what the name might lead you to expect) couldn't muster the same for "California Songs".

    But enough with critical/satirical songs. Cock Sparrer's "England Belongs to Me" is great for crowds even if there is some raissentiment at the beginning. Even southeast asians can sing it, since you can easily change the location as appropriate (though cities seem a more popular choice than nations).

  3. They didn't used to play recorded music at sports events. Then, in the 1970s, Shea Stadium started playing Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" as the crowd was leaving Mets games. NYC was at its nadir at that point. The effect was electrifying. The playing of "New York, New York" after Mets games, and the parade of tall ships at the Bicentennial were the beginning of the city's turnaround -- for better or worse.

  4. You sure it was the Mets? Asking because these days it's the Yankees who play Sinatra's version of "New York, New York" when they win, and Liza Minnelli's version when they lose.

  5. Yes, Anonymous, it was the Mets not the Yankees -- that made it all the more New-Yorky.


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