Do you like sports? Me too. I like them lots. I miss them much. And what I particularly miss right now is going to see them. Remember what that was like? Yeahhh — that was awesome, right?
[whispers] … sounds a bit like hell now, though, doesn’t it?
Honestly, who knows what the live sports experience will look like once it returns. But some really smart people are gonna figure that out for us, ok? And they definitely/(probably?) aren’t going to kill many/(all?) of us once they do.
So meanwhile, what should we all do? Howsabout we figure out one way to vastly improve the in-game experience for spectators (once there is such a word in sports again)?
This is the perfect time to end the era of beaten-to-death, clichéd, passé arena anthems. So … let’s!
So then, what are we talking here? Well, I have some ideas. Some you’re gonna like, some you’re gonna want to tell me to get the fuck out of here with.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, though, which is why my indisputably correct takes will be followed by a 64-song Deadspin Arena Anthem Tournament (To The Death). I propose that all first-round losers by more than 20 percentage points should be banned from sports forever. They can be replaced with fresher beats (cue DJ Clue yelling, “New shit!”), and I will be sending a strongly worded letter to the front offices of all four major American sports leagues with the results of our bracket, along with our demands for aural justice.
No, really. I will. What the hell else am I gonna do right now?
So without further ado, here’s how this is going to work. I’ll seed 64 songs that are either synonymous with the current sports soundtrack landscape, or are on their way to becoming the arena mainstays of tomorrow.
One-seeds are the undisputed champs, though I want you to note that I absolutely despise one of them (you’ll see). Two-seeds are my personal faves. Threes and fours are newer, legit bangers I want to give a fighting chance at glory and not bury against legends. Fives through 14s are the current crop of ubiquitous arena tunes, like them or not.
Then, there are the 15s and 16s … mwahahahaha! With one exception, these are all carefully curated by yours truly to symbolize everything wrong with the in-game auditory experience. As a guy who has been to a home game for all 123 teams in the four major sports leagues, believe me when I tell you that these insidious earworms are everywhere, and I hate them all with a deep, dark passion, and I desire the tapes in their cassingles to be pulled out in such a manner that no pencil could ever fix them (ask a Gen Xer, kid). My goal here is to debase these cacophonous caterwauls and burn their liner notes in effigy in a sort of modern day, socially distant Disco Demolition Night. Vote accordingly, please and thank you.
On that happy note, let’s meet our competitors.
Some notes on this madness:
Sports Illustrated (and others) have named “We Will Rock You” the greatest arena anthem of all time. For my money, it might have once held this title, but it’s time for the torch to be passed. I’m not, however, willing to just hand it over to the No. 2 song on that list … because … I abhor “Seven Nation Army.” Not as a piece of music, as it undoubtedly thumps. But as a staple of sports venues? Well, as I wrote in “One Lucky Fan,” “Enough. It’s been 15 years. 123 teams cannot be this collectively unoriginal.” Yet, most are! Every fan of every team across every sport seems to believe that this is their song; the one that will faze every opponent and spark every rally and cap every big moment. What they fail to realize is that this same auditory assault is being played out in every other venue concurrently. If “Seven Nation Army” is every team’s Mariano Rivera, then saves are a useless stat. (Don’t get me started – they’re not!)
I harbor no ill will toward our two other No. 1’s: “Thunderstruck” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” Both make me want to run through a wall, Kool-Aid Man-style, as their intros crescendo frenetically. They’ve earned their status in my book.
One of the first things that will jump out, for many, is my exclusion of arena habitué Gary Glitter and his famed “Rock and Roll, Part 2.” “HEY!”
Listen, I’m a Devils fan who for decades yelled “HEY!” after every home goal scored, and I’m sure a lot of artists in my bracket have done a lot of shitty things, but convictions for possession of child pornography, kid sex abuse and attempted rape of minors means you have to fuck the fuck right out of my fun zone. Dead to me.
The two-seeds are my personal go-to jock jams. If I were to fill the entire bracket out (okay, fine, I did that a few times), there is a damn good chance “Kickstart My Heart” would hoist the trophy. “Get Ready For This” was the warm-up music in my head when we played street hockey in college, where I used couch cushions from the radio station sofa for goalie pads (easily not their weirdest, grossest use in my time there, I shudder to imagine). “Sabotage” simply shreds, and “Sandstorm” will always bring me back to a raucous night on a dance floor in Iceland.
I’ve made the 8/9 matchups particularly thorny for voters. A lot of Sophie’s Choices in those. One of my life anthems during particularly challenging moments is “Going The Distance” from “Rocky” and, ergo “Victory” by Puff Daddy, which incorporated it. I’m putting that combo in grave danger up against Alan Parsons. Alas, such is a tournament to the death …
I’ll have plenty to say about all the entrants once we take this bracket to the Twitter masses. But one final note here … about those 15/16s: they’re all white-hot trash, except “Kernkraft 400,” aka Zombie Nation. This is my stalking horse, aimed squarely at giving a fellow Nation (of the Seven Army variety) a first-round, soccer-chanting-battle-royale run for its money.
As for the rest of them: “Cha Cha Slide,” “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Jump Around,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Shout,” “Who Let The Dogs Out,” and “YMCA” … just … no. Stop it. Get some help.
I look forward to shit-talking throughout our tourney, and giving you my analyses and probably disgust along the way. Because I just know you’re all gonna screw this up and it’s gonna be Queen and The White Stripes in the finals and I’m gonna wonder why I even let you play my little reindeer games.
Regardless, though, and wherever the chips may land, let us now play … Name That Top Tune.
Who ya got?