Do you know what’s awesome? The #1 TV Sports Music on this list. I had originally thought to say in a Facebook post - Do you know what’s awesome…(insert my #1 TV Sports Music here) but as I got to thinking about it, I realized there were lots of awesome TV Sports music.
So we’re clear, these are themes and intros that show up on Sports Television in the United States. For the most part, the themes I came up with were intros to shows, but there are a few exceptions…you’ll see what I mean. YouTube, happily, makes this list easier and so all the music I could find can be easily played back if you’d like.
We can all agree music is tied to memory - the music I came up with today was either catchy as hell or reminds me of a vivid memory. Maybe it’ll do the same for you. You’ll see very quickly that that my list is pretty heavily weighted towards one sport…can’t help it. It’s how I roll. Do you wanna start with The Best of theRest? I do! So let’s start there…
The Best of the Rest!
ABC’s Wide World of Sports-I admit it, the music wasn’t quite as catchy as everything else on this list, but the intro’s music and Jim McKay’s reminding us that the flip side of “The Thrill of Victory” was “The Agony of Defeat” personified by that hapless ski jumper are iconic. The music got very ominous as said hapless ski jumper flailed about during his doomed attempt. Any list like this would be remiss without a mention of The Wide World of Sports.
Did you know the very first episode of ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the Drake Relays right here in God’s favorite city (Des Moines)? Well, it did…
Comin’ to Your City (Big and Rich) – My friends Ike, York, Owen, and Fratter probably hate this selection and, for the most part, I would agree that songs with actual lyrics opening up a sports show is generally a mistake (exhibit A. being the Hot Mess that is Sunday Night Football on NBC). But Big and Rich don’t suck here. It’s reasonably catchy and doesn’t make you want to change the channel. I always wondered, though, why the kid that is walking down the street just before the music starts has a jersey that says “Winter Park” on it. Oh well…
College Football Lives Here (ESPN) -
I think the reason that I like this one is because I find myself lightly clicking my teeth to the drumline and it makes me feel like I can play the drums. Which I cannot. The music by it’s self is mostly just a drum line but when you put it to highlights and the whole “lives here” theme, it works pretty well. And the Christmas version where they mash up “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on a glockenspeil (oh, you don’t think this guy knows how to pick a glockenspiel out of a mash up? Check yourself, son…) sounds great too.
The Lombardi Trophy Theme – So…I’m not sure if this one belongs which is why it shows up in the Best of the Rest because I’m not sure it actually made for TV. This is the theme they play when they present the Lombardi Trophy to the Superbowl Winner immediately following the game.
Honestly, it’s just too damn catchy not to mention, though. A few years ago, when the Saints won the Superbowl, a rather famous photograph was taken of Drew Brees and his 1 year-old son. His son was wearing ear protection which was oddly cute and curiously reaching for the confetti that was falling. In my mind, this was the music that was playing. I don’t know why. Here’s the music.
Let’s do this thing!
Top 10 Awesome TV Sports Music
#10. The NFL Network Bells
This is not (I repeat NOT) the trainwreck that is Priyanka Chopra’s Song that starts NFL Thursday Night Football. If we were making a list of TV music disasters, that ear-drum papercut might very well top it.
We are talking about the bells. This piece of music sounds oddly Christmas-y, but does a nice job of making the upcoming game feel very severe, even if it’s Jacksonville vs Cleveland. When they play this music, I feel like the weather should be colder than it is. It’s really catchy and hopefully the NFL network quits trying to be like NBC and drops that idiotic “In My City” that was inexplicably forced on America.
The television show “Around the Horn” sort of parodied this – they have their “Tournament of Champions” at the end of the year and Tony Reali was apparently given permission to use this music as the intro. When you hear it, a Tournament ceases to be pronounced “ter-nament” and becomes “Tore-nament.
#9. The SportsCenter Theme
This one grabs a spot in the Top Ten because “da da da, da da da!” has become somewhat synonomous with a sports highlight. I don’t know about everybody else’s high school but when you were shagging fly balls at baseball practice, it was considered in poor taste not to dive for a ball even if you didn’t really need to. The implorement “C’MON! FULL EXTENTION!” referred to your opportunity/obligation to unnecessarily dive for a fly ball. If you managed to come up with said fly ball, a customary “DA DA DA, DA DA DA!” yelled from across the field was in order.
When I was a senior in high school, Joe Herring and I were given the opportunity to start a promising broadcasting career during a softball game from the Earlham High School, uhh, press box (I guess). Kelly McCracken made a relatively easy throw to first and an enthusiastic “DA DA DA, DA DA DA!” emitted from the press box over the field speakers. This marked the end of Joe Herring and I’s promising broadcasting career.
The SportsCenter Theme music is almost as much apart of popular culture as SportsCenter itself and if the closing stanza of your symphony is that recognizable, it makes the list. The link below is the most recent version and by itself, it’s a little bit underwhelming which is why it stays at #9.
#8. The NFL Today – Old School
Well, this is a blast from the past. The NFL Today holds the distinction of being if not the first NFL pregame show, being the first NFL pregame show that existed as we recognize them today. Highlights, analysis, interviews, and (one thing that has been lost) Jimmy the Greek going over the lines (betting lines) (and, I guess, metaphorical racial ones later in his career).
I remember when Jimmy the Greek got fired for saying something about black people. Since I was about 7 years old at the time, I didn’t understand what he was saying or, indeed, why it was inappropriate. I didn’t understand what a betting line was, but found Jimmy the Greek oddly transfixing - everybody else on that show seemed to want to know what Jimmy the Greek had to say, so I guess I should pay attention too.
I have been listening to Brent Musburger’s voice all my life (he even came to Ames this week to call the Kansas/ISU game) and I really enjoy his calls. His voice has gotten a bit lower during the 30 years I’ve listened to him and his comments, well, they’ve become more focused on coeds in the crowds (“Folks, you see that young lady there…that’s A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend…WOW”). The first time I ever heard him talk was preceded by:
BOM BOM! Ba da ba da baaa ba ba baaaa…BOM BOM!
#7. The NBA on NBC Theme
When you hear this, Marv Albert hasn’t been accused of anything bad yet and his signature and simplistic “Yes!” is about to denote every field goal that drops. Larry Bird is about to continue to be ageless. Charlotte is going to rock out those sweet unis. Actually, so are Seattle, Denver, and Philadelphia (the ones before Iverson got there). Shaq is about to clash with ‘Zo and Penny’s about to feed him the ball. Hakeem the Dream and Patrick Ewing are about to fight for position and boards.
And Michael Jordan. Oh, Michael Jordan. He is about to TORCH the Jazz, Suns, Lakers, Sonics, or Trailblazers. He’s about to light up the Trailblazers for six 3’s and 35 points in the first half on my birthday and shrug his way down the court. He’s about to cut the hearts out of Cleveland. He’s about to shoot a free throw with his eyes closed. He’s about to fly through the air with his tongue hanging out and drive a Chicago crowd into a frenzy and be the most amazing basketball player I ever saw.
That’s what happens when this music plays. Just like that wonderful period of NBA basketball, the music couldn’t last. In the name of TV contracts and network rights taking over, it was taken from us.
#6. NFL Primetime Highlight Themes
I know my friends Ike, York, Owen, and Fratter will hate this selection at #8. This is because my friends Ike, York, Owen, and Fratter have a rather healthy distain for Chris Berman.
The truth is, I used to love Chris Berman. When I was in 7th and 8th Grade and Berman didn’t always sound like he had acid reflux all the time, I thought NFL Primetime was coolest highlight show there was. Berman would come up with clever variations of players’ last names, he’d say something funny, and then throw it to Tom Jackson who’d come up with really good play insight. I remember they were doing highlights in 1992 of the Eagles and Giants and Vai Sikahema returned a punt for a touchdown and started punching the Giants Logo on the goalposts like a boxing heavy bag. Berman and Jackson did a highlight package and it was perfect.
But the highlight package didn’t just have Berman and Jackson – NFL Primetime also had some of the best backing music there was. I think the link at the bottom was the best one they had, making you think that with each highlight, the pace of the game would get faster and the outcome even more in doubt.
Why they stopped this formula I have no idea. If you follow the link, actually Primetime Themes 1-3 should take you back…
#5. The Monday Night Football Theme
So, again, this is NOT the song. I was really glad when Hank Williams’ “All My Rowdy Friends” got axed from the show’s beginning because, after 20 years, it was over-played, over-hyped, and generally irritating. Monday Night Football already HAD good theme music, a theme called “Heavy Action” that has been around since it’s inception. It sounded great in the 70’s, it sounded great in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and today. They actually used it nicely with their opening this year as they went through 40 years of Monday Night Football.
This music lends it’s self to voiceovers and descriptions of what was about to happen in the game you were about to watch. This music, by itself is catchy and can go around in your head without being tremendously irritating. This music, not Hank, is what you find yourself humming on late Monday afternoons in October when the week has just started but you have something to look forward to on your television when you get home.
I never got to hear Cosell, Gifford, and Meredith call games together, so my MNF imprinting was Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, and Dan Deirdorf. To this day, at halftime, I find myself wondering if I have to go to bed, because that’s when I had to go to bed when I was 7 or 8. Occationally, when I hear this music, I get a flashbacks. The house I used to live in when I was little, the sofa and the carpet and (oddly) Little Caesar’s Supreme Pizza.
Yeah, I know. That last one is weird. But I’ll be damned if they don’t just pop up sometimes when that music starts playing…
#4. The Masters Theme
This could be a little low at #4 and if people think it should be higher, I could certainly see why. The Masters Theme lets you know that it’s April and the world is about to wake up – at least, that’s what I always think of.
Azaleas in Augusta can only mean that Iowa’s fragrant flowering crab apples are not so far behind. The weather should be warmer than it has been and it’s probably time to open up your windows and air out the house a bit. When I hear this music, it makes me think that the most manicured and most flawlessly kept golf course in the world is green again and that my world just needs a few more weeks.
Jim Nantz has been the voice of the Masters for as long as I can remember and when Jim shows up on my TV on a sunny April Saturday, I know that Spring is just around the corner.
#3. The Olympic Theme
Every 2 years, this one gets dusted off by NBC and we all get a chance to be fans of the same team (you know, providing you live in the same country as me). I really like the Olympics, both summer and winter. The US never does quite as well in the Winter Olympics but, to be honest, I kind of found those sports to be a little more intriguing even though, as Seth Meyers once pointed out, the Winter Olympics is essentially 27 different versions of sliding.
But your plastic Target-bought sled could easily double as a luge or bobsled, could it not? And who doesn’t love watching the men’s and women’s skiing events? Those people are fricking crazy. We (the Americans) do have somewhat of a stranglehold on Men’s Snowboarding (thank you Shaun) and the speed skating events are oddly hypnotic. And there’s always ice-skating drama. You may hate it, but it’s interesting.
The Olympic Theme is the back drop to all of this. That stately piece of music reminds you that the human body is capable of amazing things – did you know that it was written by John Williams? I didn’t, until I looked it up. Also, and this cannot be understated, it is my wife’s favorite piece of music.
#2. The CBS College Basketball Theme
I know that this one is used throughout the year by CBS, but I associate it with arguably the most magical two days in American sports – the first Thursday and Friday of March Madness.
March in Iowa sucks. It is the only month out of the year that I don’t really like my home state. The world is brown and dead, the skies are perpetually cloudy and grey, the temperature maddenly fixed at 37 degrees F, and dirty piles of snow that fell two months ago sneer at you as you drive by and refuse to melt.
Then, something magical happens. March knocks out a gorgeous day. I don’t know why and I don’t know how but that first Thursday of March Madness always seems to be met with a gorgeous, sunny, warm, wonderfully happy March day. The temperature moves north of 60 degrees and people dig through drawers to find those shorts that got put away back in October. Those sneering snowpiles suddenly see their own mortality as you drive by with your windows open.
And this is the music I think of. I first noticed the Gorgeous Thursday phenomenon when I was a freshman at UNI. Ben Brown had been stressing all week about an exam that might be pushed back to Friday which would ruin his plans to skip class, open his windows, drink beer, and watch college basketball all day. Fortunately, Ben ended up taking his exam on Thursday morning and saw his plan come to fruition – and it was a glorious day. And then it kept happening. Year after year, the Thursday of the Tournament kept being gorgeous.
As my bracket disintegrates faster than those sneering snowpiles, this music is the music I find myself humming. And it makes me very happy.
#1. The CBS College Football Theme
This is the greatest TV Sports music of all time. This should not be in question by anybody; if it is, I pity you and your poor, misinformed life. By the way, I’m not sure how CBS kept knocking out all these good ones, getting 4 of the Top 10 and 3 in the Top 5, but they sure can find catchy music.
This music IS Saturday afternoons in the Fall. I love College Football more than just about any other sport and there are certain things that will be stuck in my head forever associated with college football…our old house used to be within hearing distance of Jack Trice Stadium and I remember the way that stadium sounded when I wasn’t in it. I remember when Oklahoma State came calling and Barry Sanders shredded us for around 300 yards – I swear I heard the stadium collectively gasp. There are other things too, Keith Jackson and Brent Musburger’s voices, Saturdays that are warm in the sun and cool in the shade, falling leaves, days that start to shorten when you aren’t looking, and the sound of a marching band (sadly missing from Sunday afternoons)…but most of all this music.
It’s what I think of when I think of Saturday Afternoons.
Wanna hear how good it is when there’s a voice over? Here’s Musburger setting up a classic between Notre Dame and Miami (the Catholics vs Convicts game) in 1988.
I miss you, College Football.