Archive for February 26th, 2007

Didn’t We Used to have a Sports-Anthem Columnist?: A Post About Less than Nothing

February 26, 2007

During my first year of college, some poor administrator found it a good idea to give me and a friend complete control over the music played during the timeouts of our school’s basketball games.* We were good. We hit the unsuspecting masses with a steady dose of Nine Inch Nails’s “Head Like a Hole” (I had something like 9 remixes of this song), stuff from U2’s Pop album (my favorite being the last song on that album which is this really depressing song sung by Johnny Cash to a really cool, almost techno beat), and then some real-deal rave music from Europe that was laced with random lines from Monty Python.

Our efforts were never fully appreciated. We were ironic and cool and toyed with our crowd’s emotions in ways they weren’t comfortable with. We transgressed the sacred bounds of the “jock rock” genre usually played during sporting events – Van Halen’s “Jump”, anything by AC/DC (especially “Thunderstruck”) or Ozzy Osbourne (“Crazy Train” and then some other song that is used all the time which really does have a cool guitar intro), that techno-y song used during wrestling (the one that comes after: “Let’s Get Ready to Rumbuuuuuuuuuuuuul), or something by The Village People. But the crowds didn’t want ironic. They didn’t want to hear about Johnny Cash leaving his house as a young man with a Bible and a Gun. They wanted to simply get pumped up by loud music, not contemplate “god-money” to whom they were bowing down in servitude and from whom they would get what they deserved.

I think we lasted two games.

It still amazes me that the music played at sporting events has remained relatively untouched since, say, 1985. These are sacred hymns with which you do not mess. Sure, there are occasional additions to this musical canon, but there is some rigorous, tacitly agreed upon standard the songs must meet in order to not confuse fans.**

So I’ve been very happy that Pepperdine has added a new song to its arsenal of time-out music. As fans here, we are still subjected to Van Halen and Ozzy and YMCA (WHY does everyone still think it’s cool to spell out, bodily, YMCA?). And we still get ready to rumble. We even go down to Cotton-Eyed Joe’s more often than I’d like. But, now, we also: Take On Me, Take Me On. Who knew Aha was so inspirational? But it’s such a nice change of pace. It’s nice to hear a gym or stadium full of people talking and pretending not to listen to the synthesized music until the end of the chorus. When everyone stops mid-sentence, mid-conversation, to shamelessly sing that one high note. You know how it goes: “Take on me, take me on, I’ll be [something], [sooooomething something something], TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE.”

It’s the final “Take” sung by 2500 people in unison that brings on the goose bumps. The guy in charge of the music at our games – and I have some serious issues with his selections most of the time, as he’s not willing to take chances – turns off the music and lets the crowd’s TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE lead us back into the action on the court or the field.

Maybe this is a nation-wide thing. Maybe it’s been around for a while and I’ve simply not been paying attention. But until otherwise informed, I’m giving lots of credit to the guy at Pepperdine who plays Aha proudly. Who has done what my friend and I couldn’t do with Nine Inch Nails and some really cool, if underappreciated, techno music. He’s made them relevant, even essential, to the sporting experience at Pepperdine. It’s good times.

And, yes, I hope this song is stuck in your head now.

* I think my friend and I owed — and subsequently abused — this privilege because Terry Austin, who frequents this site, was the guy who introduced the players who subbed in and out of the games, and he put in a good word for us. I also think he helped pick some of the music, although he kept his name out of the scandal somehow.

** For some reason, rap songs aren’t put through the same rigorous scrutiny. They can be played almost as soon as they are released without the usual 10 to 15 year waiting-to-see-if-this-song-will-truly-pump-us-up tests.