April 20, 2014

Rocktober #7: Sports & Music, and the Bonds That Tie

Sports and Music. At first glance, I suppose neither one would appear to have too much to do with each other. In fact, in many instances, the two are antitheses of one another.

Indeed, many musicians, particularly those in the indie rock scenes are viewed as cultural outsiders. They are the kids who didn’t fit in with the jock culture in school and used music as their vehicle for escape.

Conversely, “jocks” are often portrayed as big dumb fools who lack the emotional ties to make interesting music meaningful in their lives. For them, music is just something to pump them up. Hence, they are stuck with Jock Jams (not that there’s anything wrong with Jock Jams…it just lacks the depth of something like, oh, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”).

The truth is, though, that this is more Fun with Stereotyping than Truth in Practice. Twitter has torn down the wall between athletes and fans and musicians and appreciators. Now that we’re able to claw our way through the disguise, we can see that many athletes are extremely thoughtful and intelligent individuals with a deep love of vast genres of music. And so, too, do we see that many musicians are huge sports fans.

Perhaps nowhere has the line between sports and music been blurred than in the trend of athletes putting out albums. Shaquille O’Neal may have been the most prominent athlete to make a foray into music, but there are literally hundreds of albums by athletes.

Former Indians Jack McDowell and Ben Broussard have both released albums (McDowell with his band Stickfigure and Broussard with his own solo album). Omar Vizquel is a well known music lover and he contributed a fantastic version of himself drumming and singing a cover of The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Broadway” on the MLB compilation “Oh Say Can You Sing”. That album alone has cover songs being sung by Broussard, Sean Casey, Jeff Conine, Coco Crisp, Matt Ginter, Aubrey Huff, Scott Linebrink, Jimmy Rollins, Ozzie Smith, Omar, and Kelly Wunsch.

It’s not just baseball players, though. Have we forgotten about Kobe Bryant’s “K.O.B.E.”? Or Chris Webber’s “2 Much Drama”. Allen Iverson’s rap album lives in infamy. Ron Artest is famous for hyping his label and his music. Boxers Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones Jr have released music. Deion Sanders’ “Must Be The Money” has some of the most memorably awful lyrics (“The way I live is oh so phat, I got 2 ladies and Prime Time is all that”).

Every year the MLB All Star break features the celebrity softball game in which musicians get their chance to show off their skills. Jay-Z is a part owner of the Nets. Jimmy Buffet is a staple at Heat games (he is also known to be ejected from a Heat game every now and then). The Dropkick Murphys show off their Boston pride in their videos and are often wearing Boston sports teams’ clothing at live shows. They even recorded a version of “Tessie” for the Red Sox, a song that is played at Red Sox games along with their cover of “Dirty Water”.

NBA arenas are constantly pumping in music through the PA system. Baseball players each have their own intro song to be played at every at-bat at home games. NFL games are playing music for player warm-ups. Everywhere you look, music and sports are being intermingled.

But what is it about sports and music that make the two go together so nicely? Lets look at some of the factors. First of all, they are both hobbies that the lucky few are fortunate enough to do for a living. They are both born out of passion. They both attract massively loyal and ardent following from fans. They both carry an air of celebrity, money, popularity, etc.

People play sports and listen to/perform music for fun. It’s something to do, and immense enjoyment can be derived from both. Yet the fact that some have found ways to do this for a living, and to earn money and status from it, make them both a glamorous endeavor that we all would love to be able to follow. What could be better than being either a rock star or a professional athlete?

I think it’s that connection between the musician/athlete and the fan that forms the deep connection between sports and music. Just look at the similar ways people interact with both. There are those who plays sports professionally and there are those play music professionally. And there are fans who follow both in similar manners.

In sports, we mostly watch the games on TV. We sometimes buy DVDs of the best games (I still love watching my OSU National Championship DVD). But every once in a while, we scrape together some money and we buy a ticket to watch the game live. We wear our jerseys and we go partake in communal enjoyment of our sports team with other like minded fans.

In music, we mostly listen to the band on the radio/internet. We buy CDs of the best albums so we can listen to them whenever we want. But every once in a while, we scrape together some money and we buy a ticket to watch the bands perform live. We wear our best concert attire (never to wear the shirt of the band we’re seeing, though) and we go partake in communal enjoyment of the band with other like minded fans.

In sports, the fanatics try to memorize the stats and know the players on all the teams. In music, the fanatics know the members of all the bands. We know which songs are on which album and we know what year they came out. In sports, the pros play the game at the highest level, but we love to toss the football or put on our gloves and play catch. Some of the more serious folks play intramural or city leagues. In music, we love to sit in our rooms and play guitar or piano or drums. Some of the more serious folks form cover bands or even their own bands that play original songs on a local level.

Music and sports are also both generational ties. As I stated in Rocktober #1, my first memories of listening to music came from listening to my parents’ records. That’s true for most people (but not everyone). We tend to inherit our first impressions of music from our parents. A lot of folk music involves traditional musical arrangements that have been passed on from generation to generation. In sports, most (but not all) sports fans inherit their love of sports teams from their parents. Not only is sports fandom handed down generationally, but many fight songs are traditional arrangements passed on from generation to generation.

My life is all about a labor of love. Don’t get me wrong, I have a day job. It’s a standard 7:30 to 4:00 job and I enjoy it. I like my company, I have fun at work, and I have great friends for coworkers. But it’s a job. It’s not my passion. I started writing my own sports blog out of pure passion for sports. And in doing so, I’ve met my fellow WFNY writers who continue to inspire me on a daily basis. And we’ve built this WFNY community full of readers and commenters who challenge us daily. But above all else, it’s the communal passion of Cleveland sports fans that I love. We’re all in this together.

Similarly, my musical endeavors are all about passion. I am fortunate to have a job in which I can listen to music literally all day long. I listen to music in my car to and from work. When I get home, I frequently pick up my guitar and either play along to some of my favorite songs or I come up with my own riffs and song ideas. I read music sites, I read music blogs (one of my favorites is a fellow Cleveland blog called I Rock Cleveland…check out Bill Lipold’s amazing work at http://blog.irockcleveland.com/). I have made some of my best friends through interacting on music message boards. Again, this communal experience of passionate fans is such an enormous part of the experience.

So for me, it’s hard to really separate sports and music. They are both such important parts of my life and their influence permeates all around my life. When we started Rocktober, we said whenever possible we would try to tie the music side into sports. Sometimes we’ve done so explicitly, other times not so much. But it’s all the same thing. Look around you. Sports and music are everywhere, and they tie so much of all of our lives together. Rocktober may be a celebration of music, but in doing so, it’s also a celebration of sports.

  • Return of the (Alex) Mack


    Don’t Forget Jordan Shipley singing about/to Colt McCoy

  • Chip

    tss you should take the bonds to the bank or sumthin tss

  • http://britneyspearsmusic.org/song/Toxic/7918560 Britney Spears Toxic

    Perhaps nowhere has the line between sports and music been blurred than in the trend of athletes putting out albums. Shaquille O’Neal may have been the most prominent athlete to make a foray into music, but there are literally hundreds of albums by athletes.