February 12, 2012

Top 20 Sports Network Theme Songs of All Time

Hello and welcome back! (Talking to myself).

After being on blogging hiatus for nearly a year, I still sort of am. I know that's not much of an update, but even though I hate the once-a-month infrequency of updating a website, if that's what this thing is called, I'll still do it because Jenn MacRostie said I should. Now onto this extremely irrelevant piece of writing.

I was trying to remember what the NHL on Versus theme sounded like, even though it's only been a month since it disappeared from television. That led to a sports theme song link-jumping spree that lasted for so long that the constant exposure to '80s TV graphics briefly gave me the ability to taste shapes. I've gone on sports TV theme benders before, but never like this. I mean it drove me here for fuck's sake, I was in the zone. So in the zone that the words "Turn that annoying shit off or I'm leaving you" didn't faze me one bit, and it's because of that extreme apathy toward getting married one day that I bring this to you: The Top 20 Sports Network Theme Songs of All Time. And by "All Time" I mean "my lifetime" because I'm not convinced yet that everything pre-1986 wasn't just a dream Larry Murphy had. (Seriously, explain slavery. PEOPLE OWNED PEOPLE. That is fucked up.)

Before beginning, I will lay out the seemingly arbitrary criteria used for compiling this list: In no particular order of importance, each song had to carry some measure of nostalgia, originality and actual quality. So to the both of you still lost out here in our neck of the woods, buckle up for an adventure through time so exciting you'd swear LeVar Burton was reading about Ted Lindsay shitting a giant rainbow over Joe Louis Arena.

#20 ~ NHL on ESPN 2

What a terrible song. (Good start to the list.) As far as TV themes go, it pretty much fails at being anthemic or memorable or catchy in any possible way. If I were to hum it to you and say, "Is this the NHL on ESPN2 theme, or is it the sound that naked Ed Olczyk makes when he's piecing together his Joel Quenneville mustache hair doll?", you would be thoroughly confused. But it signified a greater purpose. I remember the exact moment that I discovered ESPN 2; it was a Blues/Maple Leafs game during the 1996 playoffs. ESPN 2 had been added to our cable package just in time for the playoffs, and that shitty music rang in the joy as a second all-sports-all-the-time channel existed in my household. Stick Stickly and his afternoon of fun couldn't hold a candle to multiple channels of playoff hockey. He just couldn't. He was a popsicle stick. He didn't have hands.

#19 ~ Golf on NBC

I like golf, so right there I've said a sentence that has caused you great anguish and really there's no point in finishing this thing because everyone is gone now. Fuck you, I like golf. I like that song. You know what gets me pumped for watching stuffy white guys (and the really good Blasian guy who cheated on his hot wife) on the Sunday evening of the U.S. Open trying to delicately roll a small white ball into a little hole while a crowd of thousands has to sit on their hands and be quiet? This song. It does the job, man. And if you don't like watching golf on TV, then show me how you do that because I feel kind of weird enjoying it.

#18 ~ NFL on NBC (1993)

I didn't link the actual song. Instead, I linked the pinnacle of NFL coverage on NBC during that era: O.J. Simpson playing Mike Ditka in a game of Madden. It's riveting as fuck. Let's break it down:

A) This took place during the pregame of Super Bowl XXVII, January 1993. I was 6 years old and it's the first Super Bowl that I truly remember watching, not just the game itself, but the entire day's worth of pregame festivities. The Cowboys beating the Bills 52-17 was only the 3rd biggest highlight of the night behind Michael Jackson's bewildering halftime performance and this video game matchup between Ditka and the Juice.

B) It's inexplicably called "Computer Bowl '93" even though they are playing Sega.

C) At the 1:05 mark we see clear evidence that this is the first time in O.J.'s life that he has ever picked up a video game controller. He's holding it as if he's trying to set a clock radio. As a video game player, it is quite embarrassing to watch. The fact that the producer chose to cut to the camera directly focused on O.J.'s clumsy hands shows that he did not have the respect of his peers, and that my friends was the first domino to fall that led to the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

D) At 3:35, O.J. pulls out a late touchdown to take the lead and absolutely loses his shit. A man who once won the Heisman Trophy was now celebrating on his couch as he was about to win something inaccurately called "Computer Bowl" using a gaming device he probably thinks is capable of printing out money. I feel it is necessary to point out that during this video, O.J. yells the words, "IT'S A BOMB" and "THERE'S A GOD IN HEAVEN AND HE LOVES THE BILLS". But mainly "IT'S A BOMB!"

#17 ~ NFL on CBS (1986)

While this did take place in my lifetime, technically, it was not on the air long enough for me to actually experience it. But as you can hear, the song is too brilliant for me not to include it on this list. It's much further down than it's capable of being, but without the nostalgia factor it will have to settle for 17th. It's a near masterpiece, though. You could swap this song out with any song in Rocky IV and it would still work. Rocky would still miraculously beat the Russian, end the Cold War and bring Apollo back to life at the end with the help of his robot maid. (I'm assuming that's what happens; every time I see it I'm crying and doing pushups at the end so I just assume the resurrection happens while the final credits are rolling.)

#16 ~ NBA on CBS

Basketball makes it's first appearance with the NBA on CBS, which provided the soundtrack to the Bad Boys era Detroit Pistons. And when I think of the Bad Boys, my first memory is my mom pounding on the walls in celebration after winning the 1990 NBA title as a means of communicating to our neighbors that she was either ecstatic that the Pistons had won their second straight championship or that she was a raging alcoholic and oh my god who are we trying to kid it was both.

#15 ~ Olympics on NBCLink
For lack of a better word, it is truly epic. No other theme song fits as well with its sporting event than this one. It tricks me into believing that events like dudes running on skis for 3 miles and then stopping to shoot guns or whatever is a big deal. By certain definitions that should put it a lot closer to #1, but #15 isn't bad. Brandon Inge wears #15, and that guy's terrible. (Wait, I'm doing this wrong.) Brandon Inge wears #15 and he's not terrible? (Well this is just stupid. I can't lie, lying is bad. God dammit I should have just let this blog lay dormant.) Nick Lidstrom has 15 testicles, one for each Stanley Cup he plans on winning before he retires. There -- at least I didn't lie.

#14 ~ American Gladiators

Not a real sport? Get dicked, I say. Try looking directly into the bulge of Nitro and speak otherwise. Nostalgia points are huge here as I loved American Gladiators so much that I was irate the day my sister was born because she made me miss an episode. That whore. Also: it was composed by Bill Conti, who created the Rocky theme, the score for The Karate Kid, and wrote the theme song for Life Styles of the Rich and Famous. Bill Conti's face should appear on our currency.

#13 ~ NHL on FOX
I don't have any idea where people stand on this one. In 1995, the NHL debuted on FOX and the music hasn't changed to date, remaining the same as it has transitioned from a national broadcast theme to the local FOX Sports theme you still hear today. You hear it probably a thousand times each hockey season and while you very well may be completely sick of it, I obviously think that it still holds up. If they were to change it at this point it would just feel weird and forced. Longevity is a hard thing to accomplish in the world of network theme songs; if FOX can keep the same theme song for an entire lifespan of one sport's coverage before the world ends later this year, I say we should all chip in and give them a plaque or something.

#12 ~ WDIV Sports Final Edition

A surprise for the #12 spot, it's the local sports news brought to you by Scott Wahle. Just listen to that intro. It builds to a cavalcade of tumbling psychedelic synths and percussion that is almost unmatched by any other song on this list. Before I had cable, this was it as far as sports coverage went -- waiting for the sports segment of the local news. So of course they're going to complement it with an apocalyptic keyboard tune that for some weird reason includes video of a pro wrestler performing a remarkably awkward knee wobbling dance (0:28 mark). By the way, how amazing was it that pro wrestling highlights used to be included in local sports recaps? Holy shit the 80s were great.

This might be my favorite song on the list, but because I'm bending the rules by including a video game theme (This game includes John Keating-lookalike Ron Barr as an anchorperson so it's close enough to a TV theme for our judges) it's getting pushed down to #11. This song is so great that I cannot even use my own words to describe it. Instead I will call your attention over to the great Mickey Tettleton Memorial Overpass, where 6 years ago it was described in negative tones but nonetheless funny enough for me to remember all this time later:

"The opening music which was so shrill and grating that it made your ears bleed and you were forced to listen to it for at least 10 seconds as the game scrolled through a list of programmers and producers. It's impossible to describe how horrendous this music was but I'll try. Imagine if John Tesh's magnificent NBA on NBC theme was played by deaf retarded chimps on synthesizers, and produced by Satan, Pol Pot, and Ty Cobb, then multiply that by 100x and your almost there."

#10 ~ Coach's Corner
Hate him or hate him, this is an old-school, joyous romp of piccolos and xylophones and trumpets. I don't actually know if any of those instruments are in that song, but they sure are fun to say out loud. Say "piccolo". Go ahead say it, your dog doesn't know what the fuck it means, he won't be that confused. Yeah, that's it. Don't you feel a thousand times happier now after saying "piccolo"? Piccolo. Piccolo. This is stupid.

Here's what dumb people do. They take a fantastic theme song like this one that everybody likes, and they replace it with the NFL on FOX theme song because that's what they want to use for every single sporting event that they cover. NASCAR, baseball, football, soccer American Idol, local news, national news, Terry Bradshaw buying a gerbil, it doesn't matter. Same song for all. Yes, the MLB on FOX theme is still heard on FSD broadcasts of Tiger baseball, but still. That song sounds like a big playoff game on an October night. And they changed it because they didn't notice that a large portion of their viewership (it's just me, but I take up a lot of space) cares about theme songs.

Plenty of good memories here. And yet: I lived for Saturday afternoons and for college football in the 90s with the hope that when Brent Musburger revved up his famous "YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE" introduction, he would just once finish that statement with, ".....at MY OLD BALLS" before two interns had to drag his drunken ass out of the booth and beat him with rolled up phone books. And not once did this happen. Not one fucking time.

Not that "Hank Williams Jr. + a shitload of cocaine" Monday Night Football song. The other one. This song gets heavy nostalgia points because when I was a little kid I got to stay up an hour later on Monday nights to watch football. Which was sort of stupid now that I think about it, because I would end up going to bed in like the 3rd quarter instead of before halftime. So it still wasn't the whole game. You know, when I have kids, they aren't going to have bed times. Bed times are for people who think their kids need to quit at being awake, and I won't raise quitters. They can stay up as late as they want, and if they fall asleep in school the next day, the teacher has my full permission to sell my child into Eastern European slavery.

It's the total package of song, intro video, and the great Ray Lane making an appearance at the end. Ray Lane shitting his pants is a better song than the current NHL on NBC theme, for what it's worth.

When a song instantly makes you think of the sport it's connected to, and in actuality is probably better than the product about to be televised, it has gone above and beyond its job. It's so good in fact that CBS decided to tinker with it in 2004. Does that make sense? No, it does not make sense. Planet Earth: stop fucking up things that people like. Everyone who watched college hoops from 1993 to 2003 on CBS and heard this song was a better human being for experiencing it. I know that if I hadn't heard it, I would've cheated on my fiance a good two dozen times by now and burned down Sarah McLaughlin's puppy museum.

It's perfect. It's intense, it's dramatic, it's Gary Thorne and Bill Clement, it's Wings/Avalanche, it's back-to-back Cups, it's everything. Hold me to this: If the NHL ever comes back to ESPN, and ESPN doesn't use this same exact song, I'm taking hostages. If it isn't Thorne and Clement, I'm taking hostages. If they don't use the same graphics ..... hostages. Basically if it isn't 1997 when I wake up tomorrow I'm going to have to kill everyone. You better start looking up ways to find P. Diddy's time machine.

#3 ~ Hockey Night in Canada

Is #3 too low? For you, perhaps. For many, it was a big enough of a deal to be considered Canada's second national anthem. It has a Wiki page. It has a Facebook page. It probably has a Jimmy Page. It's a big deal. Seriously, read this sentence from CTV president Rick Brace after CTV acquired the rights to the song in 2008:

"The song has a long and storied history in Canadian sports and has become ingrained in the hearts and minds of hockey fans across the country. It is an iconic tune, embraced by Canadians everywhere, and we felt it was imperative to save it."

We felt it was imperative to save it. God I love Canada. A network theme song goes astray from the network it was associated with for 4 decades and people swoop in to save it like it's a dying child. People do care! They just all live in Canada.

Maybe the best song ever, theme songs or otherwise. Just superb. This boner-inducing tune is so fantastic that even CBS couldn't bring themselves to tinker with it, as it has appeared unchanged before football telecasts every year for the past 25 years. It's a crazy adrenaline-filled rush that sounds like a cross between the American Gladiators theme and me having sex with marching band.

The first thing I did during the research and development phase of this list was pencil in John Tesh's classic "Roundball Rock" at the #1 spot. If this needs an explanation, then you are deaf.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back to occasional blogging, Tyler. Smart of you to listen to Jen. :)

Cath aka Baroque97

jennyquarx said...

YAY, you're back!! These are fantastic. And made me aLOL.

You are way too young for this, so you are forgiven, but this one will always be number one to me:


detroit4lyfe said...


Kevbo said...

I'm going to ignore and forgive the fact you put the CBS college football song anywhere close to this list, and continue with the greatest video you probably saw while compiling your list:


Thoughts on this video:

1:30 - The look he gives the audience when he first starts playing the piano is the smuggest, grammar-fail inducing look I've ever seen.

2:39 - Special guitar solo by long-haired Nick Saban!

3:22 - The song concludes as it always does: With John Tesh jizzing on his keyboard.

Triple Deke Staff said...


Cannot believe I have never seen that video. Thank you for sharing.

And because I appreciate you enlightening me with guitar hero Nick Saban and John Teshgasm, I will forgo asking how you are allowed to roam free in society while hating the SEC on CBS theme and instead just plainly ask you how you can't feel anything aside from ear sex upon listening to it.

Kevbo said...

Perhaps it is my disdain for the SEC or Verne Lundquist yelling about Cam Newton: 'What a player! What a game! What a conference!' Maybe it's because the two best things about CBS are college basketball and the Masters (speaking of which, no love for the gentle piano of the tradition unlike any other?)

But when I hear it, I DO feel ear sex. Unfortunately, it's not consensual.

Triple Deke Staff said...

(speaking of which, no love for the gentle piano of the tradition unlike any other?)

The PGA Championship theme was close to cracking the top 20. The Masters theme makes me hate white people.

Kevbo said...

Hating white people is my favorite thing to do. That, and eating a dixie cup of mosquitos.

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