How Bad Can It Be?: Toward a New Jock-Rock Canon

Written by How Bad Can It Be?, Music

The calendar may define it as March 21, but any baseball fan knows that Opening Day is the real first day of Spring. With a new season just kicking into gear, it’s time to consider the relationship of sports and music. There’s more pop music in the stadiums than ever these days. The problem is, it’s all the same ten songs. Every player seems to enter to Faith No More’s “Epic,” or “Sweet Home Alabama,” or, for the adventurous, the Chemical Brothers’ “Galvanize.” Closing pitchers have their own playlist, and it’s similarly tried-and-true. Even relatively new songs like “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” and “Shipping Up to Boston” have been played nearly into the ground. In short, stadium music is in a rut.

Now, my usual brief with How Bad Can It Be? is to look at pop culture and ask, “Why?” Today, though, in a break with tradition, I’m getting proactive. Why can’t the music in America’s ballparks be fresh and fun? Why can’t stadium crowds get roused by the inherent excitement of the music, rather than by the Pavlovian response of hearing “Enter Sandman” for the eight billionth time? There’s a ton of great music out there can get the fans up and pumped; all that’s needed is the will to buck tradition and try something new.

As a first step, I present this modest proposal: a one-season moratorium on stadium play of six egregiously-overplayed songs. I have also helpfully provided alternates to be slotted into their places. This, in hopes that the music programmers at MLB parks will be emboldened to mix it up a little.

“Mm-Hm!” The Venue
Replaces: “Song 2,” Blur
Function: Late-inning crowd rouser — a sing-along for people who are, that point, too drunk to bother with words
Advantage: Unlike “woo-hoo,” can be sung even if your mouth is full, as with hot dogs. Or nachos. Or…

…well, you know. If your mouth is full, anyway.

“Swords of a Thousand Men,” Tenpole Tudor
Replaces: “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns “˜n’ Roses
Function: Middle-inning declaration of bad-assery
Advantages:
Family-friendly vibe; sing-along chorus; lyrics express team spirit.

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Also, is good for drinking.

“Are You Ready?” Crispy Ambulance
Replaces: “Back In the Saddle,” Aerosmith*
Function: Pre-game / entry music
Advantages: Ratchets up the tension and anticipation; superior atmospherics — although you would expect no less from these Joy Division compatriots.

* This may be just a Boston thing

“Hey! Hey! Alright!” Cannonball Jane
Replaces: “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” Harry Belafonte
Function: Audience call-and-response.
Advantages: Easily adapted for friendly competition amongst crowd, e.g. left-field seats sing “Hey hey,” right field-seats reply “Alright.”

“Gold Fronts,” A Gun Called Tension
Replaces: “We Will Rock You,” Queen
Function: Stomp-and-clap cadence.
Advantages: Stonking beat means a good chance to jam out on the thundersticks. And while these alt-rock vets turned dancehall maestros know how to bring the swagger, at heart they’re all about the love of the game: “I don’t mind losing / It makes me a better winner.”

“Hurry On Boys,” The Skids
Replaces: “Rock and Roll, Part 2,” Gary Glitter
Function: Yelling “Hey!”
Advantages: Bonus “whoa-oh-ohs”; didgeridoo part finds a purpose for those stupid one-note plastic trumpets; Bo Diddley beat; the guitar that made Big Country famous; guaranteed 100% pedophile-free.

So come on, MLB owners — don’t let the fear of change hold you back. Our National Pastime is a game of stately rhythms and hallowed traditions, it’s true; but true fans have always embraced innovation, from lite beer to skyboxes to the introduction of the batting helmet and, later, the corn dog. That’s because, for all its comfort and familiarity, baseball is a game of surprises. Every pitch, every play, is a potential game-changer, and a team’s fortunes can be reversed in an instant by a lucky shot or a bumbled throw. Baseball feels as eternal as the seasons, but it is never predictable: why must its soundtrack be so?