Music is woven into the very fabric of what it means to be human. At its core, music is artistic expression of the diversity and complexities of human emotions and experiences. Sports are a manifestation of mankind's insatiable appetite for competition, his indomitable spirit, and his constant need to meet and overcome challenges. When blended together in the precise dosages, music and sports have forged many indelible moments into the hearts, minds, and memories of humanity. When done properly, the marvelous fusion of the artistic and the athletic has helped to raise the profile and enhance the value of each individual component far beyond what they would have been had they stood alone. I have taken to the task of compiling a musical top ten list in sports in order to highlight those instances where competition and composition collided to produce majesty.
For clarification purposes, when I talk about music in sports I don't necessarily mean that the song has to be about sports or that the song had to be specifically written for a sporting event. My criteria in forming my list was to examine those songs that have, for some reason or another, become so associated with a sport or sports franchise that they are virtually inseparable. So, for example, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond has been adopted by my hometown Boston Red Sox and their fans as the official song of the team since 2002. Even though that song has nothing to do with baseball, the city of Boston, or the people of Boston, it has become so ingrained into the identity of the franchise (since they sing it the middle of the eighth inning of every game at Fenway Park) that it now qualifies as a sports song in my evaluation for this list. Sadly, however, "Sweet Caroline" did not find its way to this Top Ten. Without further ado…
- "Roundball Rock (NBA on NBC Theme) – John Tesh.
For the legion of NBA fans who were weaned on Michael Jordan games in the '90s like I was, "Roundball Rock" was our lullaby. The moment we heard the initial chord progressions we knew exactly what that meant: the NBA on NBC, and most likely, another national television appearance and virtuoso performance by our idol, His Airness. I still get goosebumps hearing this beautiful, instrumental ditty. This is just yet one more reason to say nightly prayers of thanks for the musical genius that is John Tesh.
- "New York, New York"- Frank Sinatra
Composed by John Kander with lyrics written by Fred Ebb and originally performer by Liza Minnelli as the theme for the Martin Scorsese film of the same name, "New York, New York" has become synonymous with the success of New York City sports franchises. Most notably the New York Yankees play the Frank Sinatra rendition after every home game. For better or for worse, I cannot think of this song without conjuring up images of those loathed pinstripes; and I cannot think of the most recognizable American sports franchise (sorry Boston Red Sox and Dallas Cowboy fans, its true) without hearing Old Blue Eyes "start spreading the news."
- "Eye of the Tiger"- Survivor
"Eye of the Tiger" is possibly the most covered song in all sports arenas; it unquestionably is a top workout song in all gyms, public or private, on this planet. The theme from Rocky III arouses images of the indefatigable strength and determination that we love to witness in our champions and heroes of sport. It is often said that sports are a microcosm of life; if this is true, then "Eye of the Tiger" promotes the perseverance and courage needed to succeed not only in the athletic arena, but also in the game of life.
- "The Victors" (Hail to the Victors) – University of Michigan Wolverines
When conducting this list, I knew I had to include a major college sports fight song to represent America's obsession and intense loyalty to their alma maters. My decision came down to the fight songs of four schools: Ohio State, Southern California, Notre Dame, and Michigan. After much intense deliberation and a strenuous elimination process, I had to select "The Victors" to represent college athletics in this musical list. With all due respect to fans of the Buckeyes, Trojans, and Irish, the Wolverines' fight song is the most recognizable tune in all major collegiate athletics in the nation. However, if you disagree with me, feel free to just substitute your alma mater's or favorite university's fight song in place of "The Victors" in the number seven slot on this list. You won't offend me at all.
- "Star-Spangled Banner" (National Anthem) – Francis Scott Key
The singing of the national anthem has become as prevalent in and integral to professional sports in America as billion-dollar television deals and overpriced concessions. The ubiquitous presence of our nation's anthem at the start of sporting events, however, has not dulled or waned my anticipation to witness the spectacle because you never know what you might experience during each performance. Easily one of the most difficult melodies to sing, the "Star-Spangled Banner" has been tweaked and rearranged many times by various performers in hopes of modifying the tune to fit their unique vocal abilities in order to belt out a memorable performance.
The singing of the anthem always provides a spark of entertainment for me. Whether it engenders an act of kindness by then-Portland Trailblazers coach Maurice Cheeks or is a complete train wreck the likes of which Olympian Carl Lewis and actor/comedienne Roseanne will never live down, there's entertainment fodder for everyone when the national anthem is involved. And once in a generation you may happen upon a transcendent outpouring of talent like Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV.
- "We Are the Champions"- Queen
Attend any sporting in the world where they play music in the stadium and try to NOT here this classic played. I dare you.
- "Chariots of Fire"- Vangelis
Created as the main theme for the British film of the same name, "Chariots of Fire" is such an inspirational and uplifting piece of music that perfectly parallels the inspirational and uplifting biographies of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. I get chills up and down my spine every time I hear that magnificent score.
- "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"- various
This time-treasured song can be heard sung at every baseball park in America for at least six months and 162 games every year. Baseball is the national pastime and this is baseball's official theme song. While you can hear the simple beauty of this jingle at every baseball park in America, no rendition of this beloved song is more precious than the performances at Chicago's Wrigley Field during the 7th inning stretch.
- "Monday Night Football" Theme- Hank Williams, Jr.
While baseball may still be America's pastime, football has long since taken over as America's passion. With the possible exception of the release of the latest Madden video game every August, nothing is more synonymous with football in America than the "Monday Night Football" theme. Growing up, the only way I knew it was time to go back to school and that a brand new NFL season was upon us was to listen closely for Hank Williams to inquire, "Are you ready for some football?" I know I cannot be alone on this, right?
- Olympic Fanfare and Theme- John Williams
The magnitude and reach of the Olympic Games numbers well into the billions of people affected. The global impact and appeal of this once-in-four-years international display of athletic competition is due in large part to the marvelously sublime score written by John Williams. This epic piece of music transcends social, racial, political, and religious affiliations and highlights to the valor, grit, toughness, and victory of the human spirit. Williams' beautiful piece captures and puts on prominent display the striving for hope that is at the essence of humanity.…