Despite the ever-present threat of terrible weather, I firmly believe October is one of the best months of the year. The hubbub of back-to-school insanity has died down and people have settled into a rhythm again. Thanksgiving offers a time to reflect on the blessings. Sweaters can be pulled out of that bottom drawer and worn on a crisp walk. Bands are still braving the Trans-Canada to share their newly released material to the masses. And sports fans basically overdose on choice: NFL, CFL and college football games, major league baseball playoffs, pre-season basketball and the first games of the hockey season all vie for attention.
While some believe there’s a high-school level divide between the folks who like music and those who like sports, it’s the time of year when I have to make the choice between seeing Chad Vangaalen live or watching my Twins battle the Yanks in the ALDS, and many other music-lovers and music-makers share a passion for sports. To help bridge the perceived gap, here’s some non-Jock Jam sports tunes for you.
The Hold Steady — “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” [Unreleased]
The world’s best bar band may make Brooklyn their home now, but they recorded a Twins-centric version of this seventh-inning-stretch staple in honour of their home town and had it available on their Myspace.com page. It’s still floating around the web if you go looking.
Stompin’ Tom Connors — “The Hockey Song” [from The Ballad Of Stompin’ Tom]
While it’s just as cliché to include “The Hockey Song” on this list as it is for a player to give an interview where he talks about “keeping the puck on the net,” Canada’s true national sport (seriously, who plays lacrosse?) thrives on clichés and neither the song nor the sport suffer for it.
Belle & Sebastian — “Piazza, New York Catcher” [from Dear Catastrophe Waitress]
After New York papers suggested Mets catcher Piazza was homosexual, he held a press conference to refute the claims. Apart from chronicling that episode, Stuart Murdoch and co. praised the catcher for his high career batting average and work ethic after the protagonist of the song is “called” to San Francisco to catch a game between the hometown Giants and the visiting Mets. Only Glaswegians could paint such a charmingly weird picture of America’s pastime.
Simon & Garfunkel — “Baby Driver” [from Bridge Over Troubled Water]
While I’m not certain its popularity has captured the cradle-set, NASCAR is one of the most popular sports in the United States in recent years. Between this and UFC, I’m a little concerned about what passes for sports these days.
The Chicago Bears — “The Super Bowl Shuffle” [from The Super Bowl Shuffle]
Some of you may be too young to remember this “novelty” song from the 1985 Chicago Bears, but it nearly cracked the Billboard Top 40. The Bears even made a video performing the actual shuffle, which was rumoured to have been choreographed by running back Walter Payton who once won a Soul Train dance competition and had considered a career as a professional dancer before choosing football.
The Lightning Seeds — “Three Lions” [from the single Three Lions]
Brit-pop band The Lightning Seeds wrote this tribute to the other game of football — the one we know as soccer in these parts — and it became the official song of the England football team for Euro 96. The song would be re-recorded as “Three Lions ‘98” and released once more in 2002.
Morrissey — “Boxers” [from My Early Burglary Years]
Steven Patrick takes on the sweet science in this tale of a small town boxer who loses the big bout, yet triumphs with the crowd.
The Baseball Project — “Ted Fucking Williams” [from The Baseball Project Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails]
Featuring members of The Minus 5, Golden Smog and R.E.M., the Baseball Project is a fantastic collection of musicians and songs. And you really can’t beat a song title like “Ted Fucking Williams.”
Buck O’Neill — “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” [from Youtube.com]
Buck O’Neil was one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors and the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball. He was also the driving force behind the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO (where he played for the Monarchs at first base). While he was never voted into Cooperstown, a posthumous award was created in his name for Lifetime Achievement and a statue in his honour is located just inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I heartily recommend reading Joe Posnanski’s The Soul of Baseball to learn more about O’Neil and seek out his gentle, happy song on Youtube to see a man who truly loved baseball.