I remember the first song that really caught my attention and made me “woke” to the world of music.
We were living in Rio and Spotify and Apple Music weren’t around much at that time but a song came on the radio that for the first time I felt down to my bones, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” I didn’t know what it was that made me feel that way, but I had to have more of it.
Much of my recreational activities that I get involved in outside of the world of sports somehow circles around music. From my first concert (Aerosmith) through McCartney, Winwood, Clapton, Joel, Buffett, and so many other amazing musical artists, I have spent countless hours and riches trying to whet an appetite that can’t be satisfied.
November of 1979 deepened my love affair with music when I was introduced to the sounds and vibes of The Grateful Dead. Nearly 90 concerts later of the Dead, and other versions of the band members together and solo, that music is intertwined in practically every part of my life. The fun continues as I’m able to share the experience with my sons and nephew, traveling along I-95 as I once did with my brothers, continuing the “Long, Strange Trip” that started so many years ago.
Music is found everywhere in sports as well. The success of the Brazilian men’s soccer team is often associated with the samba that runs through the blood of every Brazilian who is passionate about futbol. Professional and collegiate athletes are shown often exiting their team bus sporting Beats by Dre or AirPods, using music to eliminate the chaos as they focus on their upcoming contest.
My first few years of high school soccer weren’t that memorable as we weren’t that successful, but some of my favorite memories of that time were pre- and post-game “jams” in the locker room. Although I was a participant, as an underclassman I wasn’t taking on any leadership role in the melee. But I remember our senior leaders cranking out “Calling Dr. Love” and other Kiss classics with the whole team singing along. On the rare occasion we were victorious, the post-game jams would lead with Queen’s “We are the Champions” as we celebrated.
One of the things, as a high school coach, I have been responsible for over the last 10 years is the painful experience of listening to my players’ pre-game warmup music to make sure the lyrics were “school appropriate.” I am pretty open to my own musical tastes, but there are just some things that I just don’t get about today’s music (really showing my age now), but the pregame music is very important to the players on those teams as it gives them the extra juice they need to prepare for the game.
And it’s very important to my athletic director and principal that the music represents our school!
Professional baseball players get introduced each time they step to the plate in front of thousands of rabid fans, and what is it that is leading them out to the plate? Music, of course. The PA system blasts a pre-selected song that fans immediately associate with that player, pumping up the crowd with anticipation of great things to come.
Even teams can adopt a favorite tune they identify with the tradition and history of the organization or sets the tone for their goals for or experiences with a particular season. The year that we got married will be forever connected to the incredible run by the Orioles, as Frank Robinson led a team of young bucks to an exciting season, riding their song “Why Not?” all the way to the last weekend of the season before falling short of the playoffs.
My boys grew up watching the team’s highlight video, where they heard another one of my personal favorites, Tom Petty, playing “Running Down a Dream.”
To be fair, a decade earlier the shoe was on the other foot as the Orioles lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1979 World Series as Dave Parker and Willie Stargell led the softball-uniform wearing Pirates to the title. Their team’s song that year, “We are Family” by Sister Sledge, still turns my stomach every time I hear it.
I know I’m probably more obsessed with music than the average person, but I share that passion with so many of my friends and family that I’m OK not being average. As my playing “career” has long since come and gone, and my body is paying the price, the fondest memories of my sports experience always are surrounded by music. As the great Bob Marley once wrote, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
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Lord knows it’s gotten me through many painful days.