Sports Music

Sunday’s Washington Post Sports section had a list of the best songs about sports. I found it rather disappointing. It included Centerfield by John Fogarty and Hurricane by Bob Dylan, and a couple of Queen songs, We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You.

They missed a bunch of good ones. I started surfing the interwebs for some good ones. Of course there are seventh inning stretch songs that they missed. Boston uses Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline which has always made me want to hurl. The Nationals use Take on Me by A-Ha. It’s very hard to sing unless you’ve had three beers. Then you can hit the high notes with ease (not that the people around you agree).

If you stretch the concept you get two Paul Simon songs, Mrs. Robinson and Papa Hobo. The former has the line “Where have you gone Joe Dimaggion. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” The latter has the line “Detroit. Detroit. Gotta hell of a hockey team. Got a left handed way of making a man sign up on that automotive dream.”

No sports music list is complete without the greatest basketball song ever. Of course, I am referring to Cheech and Chong’s magnificent Basketball Jones . I had no idea until I search for it that the song features George Harrison on guitar.

Bicycling songs are few and far between, but there are two pieces of music that, along with excellent editing, make for wonderful sports songs. They both come from the movie Breaking Away. I first saw this movie before its formal release when I spent a summer in Berkeley a very long time ago. (I also saw Frank Langella’s Dracula and Alien in pre-release. The latter movie almost caused me to go to the ER as the woman next to me dug her nails into my forearm during a scary scene.)

Breaking Away is about a kid in Indiana who dreams of being a bicycle racer for the great Italian teams that he worships. In one scene, he goes out for a training ride after her learns the Italians are coming to his town, Bloomington, Indiana. During the ride, he drafts off a tractor trailer, going faster and faster to the tune of Mendelsohn’s Italian Symphony.

A bit later, he actually gets to ride with the Italians who turn out to be scoundrels. This scene, also filmed near Bloomington, is accompanied by Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture.

(Sorry about the picture quality. It’s a must see movie. You’ll never hear the word “refund” the same again.)

And, finally, I don’t know if this qualifies as music but it’s even more intense live.

Maori All Blacks Haka – I mean these guys are huge and fierce. I’ve seen Maoris do haka dances in person. It’s intense, Why any other team would line up against the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, after they do their Haka is beyond me.

A Long, Long Way from Rotorua

On our trip around the world in 2015, we made a stop in Rotorua, a resort town on the north island of New Zealand. We used it as a jumping off point for various adventures. One evening we went to a local Maori site and had a fantastic cookout and watched a traditional Maori performance called kapa haka.

Rotorua is a geothermal area and the cookout was done in the ground over geothermal vents of some sort. Just wrap the food in aluminum foil, leave it on the vents, and voila dinner is served.

The performance was extremely entertaining. Dancing, weapons, intimidating faces with bug eyes and tongues displayed. Maoris are large humans. New Zealanders of all stripes admire their fierce competitiveness on the rugby pitch either for the national team called the All Blacks or as players on other countries’ teams all over the world. Before each All Blacks game the team performs a haka as a way to acknowledge their roots, fire themselves up, and freak out their opponents.

During the performance I spotted #bikedc man about town Joe Flood taking pictures. He’s a pretty darned good photographer .  Joe’s in the purple shirt in the center of the picture below.




Today we saw Maoris perform a kapa haka in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Abe was impressed. I am pretty sure he was clapping along with the rest of us. There is obvious European influence in the songs (which were accompanied by acoustic guitarists and other musicians), the performance is unmistakably something else entirely.  My favorite singer songwriter, Neil Finn, is from New Zealand. He credits the Maori strum as the rhythmic underpinning of many of his songs, including the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” From time to time Maori music and singers appear on his records.

The performance ended just as a storm approached. I took this picture as we made our way back to the car. We didn’t make it. The clouds opened up. Summertime in DC.

Storm in DC


A few  more pictures are on my Flickr page.