Do Sports Need a Soundtrack?

One of the great American sounds is that of a Wurlitzer organ inciting a stadium or arena full of fans to “Charge.”  It’s as much a part of the audible sporting experience as the crack of a bat, the hawking of a peanut vendor, and I heard my first at the age of nine at my first Bruins game inside of the old Boston Garden, taken there by my grandfather to watch from the nosebleed seats under the eaves. I’m sure the Romans played music in the Coliseum when the Lions played the Saints, but why does it strike me that the modern music experience at most sports simply sucks?

First off — there is the volume issue. Some wise marketing person in the front office of an NBA team apparently decided that lots of noise means excitement and more ticket sales and therefore out went th edict to turn up the PA and rock the roof off of the arena.  Bar owners have long known that loud music makes people uncomfortable and therefore thirsty. The New York Times reported on this phenomenon during the Mavericks-Heats finals.

“The Mavericks’ equipment involves more than simply pumping up decibels to levels that some experts fear could contribute to long-term hearing loss. Rather, with fans spoiled by earbud fidelity and 5.1-channel home theater systems, owners like the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban have turned hosting a game into producing an event — with “assisted resonance” and “crowd enhancement,” buzzwords for insiders and euphemisms for others.”

Granted, crowd noise can be a good thing — drowning out an opposing quarterback’s audible signals, expressing team unity as everyone lustily cheers for their local laundry.  I’d never begrudge a fan the opportunity to exercise their lungs. But being exhorted to “MAKE SOME NOIZE!” and led like sheep by pre-programmed call-and-respond routines is utterly inauthentic. And what’s the deal with the bad music? I’m sure some purist bitched about Wurlitzers invading stadiums, but do I really need to rock out to Aerosmith in between plays?

Stanley Cup finals. Goal is scored. Old days a loud buzzer went off along with a red light. Starting in Detroit, now every team has a supertanker fog horn and a big God Fart is flatulated whenever a goal is scored, and then an annoying piece of “We’re F$#ing Psyched!” music is played. To wit:

I think this b.s. started with soccer — vuvuzelas anyone?  — and the Ole Ole song the hooligans sing to keep themselves awake while the “beautiful” game drags on for over an hour without anything significant happening.

Baseball has become one of the worst. Every batter has a song which is played as they approach the plate. These songs are apparently relevant in some way to the player’s personality. Why? Who knows. I get it when Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ closer strolls out of the bullpen in the ninth inning to “put the other team to sleep” and Metallica’s Enter Sandman is played. Cute.  Here’s the 2010 Phillie’s compilation, keep in mind you get to hear 15 truncated seconds of this weirdness everytime the player walks up to the plate.

I appreciate the fact that Wilbur Snapp, a baseball organist, got tossed from a game in 1985when he played Three Blind Mice after the ump blew a call.




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