The Songs of Sport

The Songs of Sport

When out at a sporting event, there's certain songs you're bound to hear blasting from the jumbotron. "We Will Rock You," "Jump Around," and "YMCA" are major ones. The probing beat of The White Stripe's "Seven Nation Army" has been adopted by teams and their fanbases across the globe. Queen actually has two stadium hits, as what would a title win be without an emotional rendition of "We Are the Champions"?

The running trait of all of these songs is their ability to excite a crowd and get them to believe in their team, in a moment of glory. Each delivers a succinct statement, and/or has a strong and repetitive rhythm. They make you want to sing or move or both. Interestingly, while this kind of composition quickly jumps out as a arena rocker, the lyrical content tends to not actually reference sports.

There are relatively few songs out there that are dedicated to teams, athletes, or a sport. The big one, which most baseball fans will know, is "Centerfield" by John Fogerty. It's a catchy, classic-rock hit that speaks to the mystique of the national pastime and its language, stories, and stars. "Centerfield" also, in the chorus, appeals to every little-leaguer's desire to get on the field and play their part: "Put me in, coach, I'm ready to play."

There's another baseball-themed song out there that's written by a major artist, though it's by no means as popular. Bob Dylan penned a tune titled "Catfish," which speaks of Jim Hunter's legend. Jim "Catfish" Hunter was one of the best pitchers of his era and was the first to sign a million-dollar contract, with the Yankees. Dylan's ode is captivating, but is more bluesy bootleg than catchy stadium rocker. 

Hockey has inspired a few songs, and most are by Canadian artists, which isn't a surprise given the sport's popularity up north. Tom Cochrane's "Big League" is a powerful rock hit that still gets frequent airplay. The song is actually rather sad – it, from the perspective of a parent, tells of a talented player that dies in a bus crash before he can break it. 

Canadian giants The Tragically Hip also have a hit that tells of a hockey tragedy. The verses of "Fifty Mission Cap" are a tribute to Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko who died in a plane crash shortly after scoring the series-winning goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final. The song has become an all-time favourite for The Hip, though it doesn't have the pop sensibilities to be regularly played in hockey arenas. 

Perhaps the most fun and charming, and therefore popular, song to be inspired by the game of hockey is "The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Connors. It's a popular one at hockey arenas around the National Hockey League, including the Maple Leafs', where it is played every game. You may not be familiar with Stompin' Tom himself, but if you're a hockey fan you'll know the chorus:

Oh! The good ol' hockey game, is the best game you can name
And the best game you can name, is the good ol' hockey game

It's a honky-tonky, rollicking-good-time of a song that, like Fogerty's "Centerfield," really captures the essence of the subject matter. The crash of the boards, the "insane" fans, a last-minute winner, the Stanley Cup filled with beer... it's all jammed in there in just a couple of minutes. It's become hockey's theme song, and for good reason.

To take us out, here's Stompin' Tom making the only U.S. TV appearance of his entire career, on the Conan O'Brian Show. 

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